Behind the curtain of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

Emily Montzka

Contributing Writer

Behind the curtain of the “Fiddler on the Roof” is a hard-working production team that has worked together to present high-quality theater for the Forest Lake community.

Artistic director Janice Murphy Roman is the mastermind of the whole production, making sure all the pieces fit together by opening night.

As a member of the Masquers Board of Directors, Murphy Roman was involved in the early stages of play selection and auditioning.

Then she spent late nights blocking the many scenes and working closely with choreographer Janessa Wasilk to seamlessly mesh the various parts together.

Murphy-Roman and Wasilk have worked together for other Masquers shows, including “The Music Man,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Oklahoma!” and “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” The pair are known for their meticulous attention to detail.

Of course, a production wouldn’t be visually pleasing without the talents of a costumer.  Masquers is proud to have Christine Houchins and her assistant, Mary Walus, as part of the team.

A large cast requires many costumes, as seen in this scene with Tony Nobles as the rabbi.

Creating, finding, and fitting costumes for nearly 50 actors is tough. On top of that, most of the actors have more than one costume, plus accessories.  Houchins states, “I have a deep appreciation of all things theater and love connecting with young people in the arts. Working backstage gives me a unique opportunity to do what I love, teach, and be a second parent to my theater kids.”

The setting of “Fiddler on the Roof” is designed, constructed and lit by Jay Schueller. As a technical director for theater companies throughout Minnesota, Schueller produces about 25 shows each year.

His experience is clearly evident on the “Fiddler” stage by the rotating set and cleverly built roof for the fiddler’s perch.

Set designer Cindy Freet worked closely with Schueller, using her painting talents to put together the creative yet functional set design.

The musical isn’t complete without the live orchestra directed by Brenda Brown and assistant Karen Hillmann. They have assembled a group of musicians to play familiar songs such as “Tradition,” “Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” and “Sunrise/Sunset.”

Although not on stage, the musicians are an integral part of the experience.

Working closely with the artistic director are stage managers Julia Valen and Mari Fauver. They are involved in many organizing tasks from auditions to the final curtain call. During the show, they ensure that actors and props are in their places and help make the show run smoothly. If problems arise, the stage managers are usually called on to remedy the situation.

The show also relies on the skills of producer Robbie Kelley, sound operator Dan Kezar and spot operator Tyler Reicher. Kelley says, “It takes the efforts of a lot of people all working together, doing their part, to create a great show. I’m very proud of the cast and our whole crew. We’ve put together a great show . . . you don’t want to miss it!”

“Fiddler on the Roof” is in its final week, showing at Forest Lake High School Auditorium July 26, 27, 28, and 29. For ticket information, visit or call 651-464-5823. Tickets are also available at the door.

The production is sponsored in part by the Hallberg Family Foundation and by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council through a grant from the McKnight Foundation and appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature.