Gallery Players will stage its sixth performance of Fiddler on the Roof this March, in honor of the JCC’s 100th anniversary. The musical has become a Gallery Players tradition and one of the most popular musicals in Gallery Players’ 65-year history.
Irene Braverman, veteran stage actor, is another long-lived Gallery Players tradition. She will again portray Yente, the Matchmaker, in this year’s production. This will be her third reprisal of the role. Braverman first starred as Yente in 1983 during the Grand Opening production in the new building, on the new stage— the first “real” stage, she said— designed especially for Gallery Players.
For the past 60 years, Braverman has played role after role, from comedy to drama and everything in between. Her favorite role, however, is as Yente, a role she feels she was meant to play. “I understand Yente. I know who she is. The more you play [a role], the more you understand it. And the more you can do it, the better it becomes, because you really become immersed in that character. I’m thrilled to have the chance to play Yente again,” she said.
As a child, Yiddish was the only language spoken in Braverman’s home, with both her parents being recent immigrants from Eastern Europe. Because of this, Braverman is able to embody her Yiddish roles effortlessly, while versatile enough as an actress to play just about any character.
Fiddler on the Roof is understandably one of Braverman’s favorite plays. “The music is marvelous, and the characters just have so much depth. It’s really got so much schmaltz. Every performance is a little different,” said Braverman. Jared Saltman, Gallery Players Director, echoed her words. “Fiddler is so wonderful because it can be new and familiar all at the same time. Even if you’ve never seen it before, it doesn’t feel dated because of how wonderful the story, the music, the dancing—all of it—is,” he said.
“The best memory I have from my years with Gallery Players was from my first time performing Yente in 1983. It was just thrilling because it was in this brand new venue. Before the new theater, we would have to almost shout our lines to be heard. It was so nice because this was a real stage with sound equipment and everything,” Braverman reminisced.
Jack Chomsky, who will reprise his 2006 role as this year’s Tevye, is excited to perform with Braverman and to honor Gallery Players’ past with this year’s production. “I hope this year’s performance will be an opportunity to appreciate the many years of artistry of many people in building and maintaining Gallery Players. I’m mindful especially of Irene Braverman, for whom the role of Yente would seem to have been written! At the same time, Irene was in so many Gallery Players’ productions in varying types of roles. She is a consummate actress in her generation and ours,” said Chomsky.
Braverman reflected on her many years as a Gallery Players performer and what being able to play Yente now, 30 years after her original performance, means to her. “There was always a place or role for me here. Gallery Players and theater have really been the most important parts of my life, besides my own family. I love these roles that I can play. To become another character is so exciting.”
Join all the excitement as the JCC’s Anatevka comes to life March 2 through 17. To see Yente, Tevye, Golde and all the rest as they dance and sing their way into hearts all over again, please visit the Gallery Players website or call (614) 231-2731. To purchase tickets, please click the button below: