Being Jewish in a Non-Jewish Community: Theatre

By: Seth Finkle

It is interesting for me to reflect on the topic of Theatre and Judaism. Since I grew up in an area that was not really Jewish, my only real knowledge of Jewish Theatre was…wait for it…“Fiddler on the Roof.” I was not exposed to Jewish theatre nor did I even know that such a thing existed. (Side note: I would like to thank my brother, Corey, for finding a Jewish composer, William Finn, who became my favorite Broadway composer. If you have not looked him up, I highly recommend it.) I ended up being in “Fiddler on the Roof” when I was in high school and was fortunate enough to play a Russian. I was one of the only Jews in the cast and was a Russian. I was thrilled to be a part of it but was disappointed I could not play a Jew, I mean this was “Fiddler”! I was able to share my knowledge of Judaism when I helped with the Jewish aspects of the show but still was not portraying one in the show. There were even times when I was asked about the scenes on stage because I was Jewish. It was almost like, well, we are not sure about the Jewish aspect in this scene, let’s ask Seth, he will know! I know theatre is all about being someone you are not, but I still wanted to play someone Jewish mainly because I did not know about any other Jewish shows out there. This was one of the MANY things about doing theatre that was difficult.

Once I was out of Gloversville, I was exposed to more theatre and began to learn more about the diversity of theatre – one being that the topic “Theatre and Judaism” is big. I worked on a variety of shows at Theater J in Washington DC where I was able to explore many different shows that dealt with the ideas of Judaism or even the ideals we have. It was amazing to me, and still is, how many shows have Jewish thoughts and topics within them. I am grateful I learned this while I was at Theater J, and it made me much more appreciative of being Jewish and working in theatre.

Even today, I am still working in the theatre and love the fact I can look at the shows I work on and see where Judaism fits in. It is very refreshing to me that I can be a part of something I love and still relate it back to my religion somehow. Let me ask you a question. What are your Jewish ideals? I am sure you can come up with some. Then look at your favorite show. You will see them within that show. This is why I love theatre. I love being able to relate to the themes on a much deeper level both spiritually and intellectually. It is a thrill for me to say the least. I think it comes down to one word as to why Judaism and Theatre do, in fact, go along together – TRADITION!


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