Issaquah High School Performing Arts Center debuts with ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

November 29, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

Jack Wheeler (right), as Perchik, chats with Suraj Saifullah, as Tevye, as they stage a scene from ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ By Tom Corrigan

In this case, being first has presented some challenges along with what were described as tremendous opportunities.

While an orchestra concert was officially the premier public event in the still very new Issaquah High School Performing Arts Center, the first full-scale dramatic production will be a staging of the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” set for six performances the first two weekends in December.

“The place is just brimming with potential,” theater manager Marty Kelly- Petersen said recently in describing the new theater equipped with what can only be described as state-of-the-art lighting, sound and stage equipment.

Drama teacher Holly Whiting is the director for “Fiddler on the Roof.” She said it was decidedly fun to have all that new paraphernalia at her disposal. But both students and staff had to figure out how to use all those nice, new amenities.

“The learning curve was vertical,” Whiting added.

Whiting is especially impressed by a couple of aspects of the new theater and first pointed to the large orchestra pit. For the first time, she said, an Issaquah High School production will be able to make what she feels is appropriate use of a full orchestra. Whiting said the “cafetorium” theater used in the past allowed a full orchestra only if the musicians sat onstage. Otherwise, there was room for only a limited number of players.

For “Fiddler,” orchestra director Doug Longman said he intends to use the entire Evergreen Philharmonic, which consists of musicians from the entire school district. The Evergreen orchestra was the group that played the first event in the Performing Arts Center on Nov. 5.

“That was a bit of a scramble, but we made it,” Longman said, adding the only surprise was that the acoustics of the hall turned out to be even better than he expected.

If you go

‘Fiddler on the Roof’

  • Issaquah High School Performing Arts Center
  • 700 Second Ave. S.E.
  • 7 p.m., Dec. 1-3, 8-10
  • Advance tickets: $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. Available online at www.ihs.issaquah.wednet.edu. Adult tickets are $15 at the door; $10 for students and seniors.

As they ran through various scenes from the play, student actors said they were thrilled with the new space.

“This theater is so beautiful,” said senior Suraj Saifullah, 18, who takes on the lead role of Tevye in “Fiddler.”

“To be first is kind of an honor actually,” Saifullah added.

Senior Rebecca Allen, 17, plays one of Teyve’s daughters, Hodel. She said she loves the play and its iconic status. Thanks to the new theater, Allen said the Issaquah production could use the original set designs and choreography from the play when it was first written. According to Whiting, the production makes ample use of the backdrop, or fly system, hanging over the new stage.

During a tour of the Performing Arts Center, Kelly-Petersen talked about how wings off to the side of the stage would allow directors to try things they would not be able to do on a standard stage. As you can probably predict, Whiting said the wings would be used to stretch the “Fiddler” production, taking it beyond the usual proscenium, the frame surrounding the front of a stage.

While the newness of the theater has dominated many aspects of the preparation for “Fiddler,” the show also will highlight the work of professional costume designer, Sheryl Cope. Both Cope and Whiting said great lengths were taken to ensure show costumes are historically accurate.

For example, Cope found a cloth measuring tape from the early 1900s to be worn around the neck of Tzeitel the tailor.

“Fiddler” is a well-known show, which is precisely why Whiting chose it for the initial production in the Performing Arts Center.

“We wanted to open with a show people know and love,” Whiting said, adding the large cast gave plenty of students the opportunity to participate.

“There’s a lot of really great characters in the show, lots of great roles,” she said.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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  1. High School Orchestra (Bellevue, Redmond, Woodinville: transfer, middle school, move) - Seattle and King County Suburbs - City-Data Forum on December 12th, 2012 3:40 pm

    [...] itself has a good orchestral program from what I've been told by friends. They also have a fairly new performing arts center. It also has access to the district-wide Evergreen Philharmonic program. I've also heard that [...]

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