Belding woman directs ‘Fiddler’ at Ionia Community Theatre

Emily Slater, front, gets a visit from Belding resident Lindsay Tallian, rear, in Ionia Community Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” opening this Friday at the Wall Auditorium in Ionia Middle School. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

IONIA — Ionia Community Theatre (ICT) decided to stick to the classics with its latest musical offering, “Fiddler on the Roof,” which opens this Friday at 7 p.m. with subsequent performances through March 9.

According to director and Belding resident, Amanda M. Hall, her chance to direct playwright Joseph Stein’s beloved favorite came about when another play she was slated to direct fell through.

“A year ago I was preparing to direct a show for ICT that unfortunately had to be canceled,” Hall explained. “A dear friend that I act with in college, Tyler Young, told me that ICT was looking for a director for Fiddler. I immediately contacted ICT’s board president, LaFonna Kananen, and told her I was interested. I met with members of the board and was chosen for the job.”

Hall has been directing since 2011, when she served as the Montcalm Community College Drama Club president. Her first effort was a murder mystery dinner theatre called “The Boardwalk Melody Hours Murders,” presented at Clifford Lake Inn.

“They provided food, we provided a show,” Hall said. “It was loads of fun for a first experience.”

Bruce Roelman stars as Tevye in Ionia Community Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” directed by Belding resident Amanda M. Hall. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

She also has directed more serious fare, including an assistant director’s stint on the Flat River Community Players production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which was her first experience with community theater.

The theater’s production of Fiddler has been in the works since November, when first auditions were held. According to Hall, at the end of three days of auditions, a total of 32 people had tried out for parts, only six of them men. After two more audition dates, the production was still a few men short.

“I didn’t even have enough women to play men if I needed them to,” Hall explained. “I was asking every man I came across if they wanted to be in a play. Family, friends, waiters at restaurants! When I cast the play, I had no choice but to gender bend a little bit.”

Since then, the cast has picked up a few male cast members, though as of curtain this weekend the production is still a couple men short; women are covering those parts, which are minor.

Overall, however, Hall is excited and pleased by the performances of the entire cast, which, she says, have been “nothing short of amazing.”

As with most activities this winter, inclement weather has cut a week, total, of planned rehearsal time from the production. Hall intentionally started rehearsals in November in order to give the cast plenty of time to familiarize themselves with their roles. Since the beginning of January, the cast has rehearsed four days a week as well as an occasional
choreography rehearsal on Saturday.

The commitment and dedication required to produce a show of this size is daunting, especially for a community theater. But according to Hall, the entire cast and crew has stepped up to the task and they’re ready for the curtain to rise.

“For the last year, community theatre has been my life,” Hall said. “I go to bed thinking about it, and I wake up in the morning thinking about it. There is nothing in this world that I want to do more than be a part of the theatre. So right now being involved in productions locally is my life. I enjoy meeting the new people, the anticipation of the finished product, and the enjoyment in the audience’s faces as they watch the production.”

The only thing about it she doesn’t love, she admits, is the fact she is able to spend so little time with her husband during rehearsal weeks.

“He is my world and being away from home every day, sometimes only seeing him an hour a day is hard,” Hall said. “And that is true for most volunteers of community theatre, cast and crew alike. We all spend days beyond days, and hours beyond hours away from our homes to make these shows possible.”

When the lights go up and the curtain rises, however, it’s all worth it. Hall notes that community theaters exist in most areas and that they are always looking for new cast members and people to work behind the scenes.

“In our area, there is Ionia Community Theatre, Flat River Community Players in Greenville, and Rogue River Community Theatre in Rockford,” Hall said. “There are so many opportunities for shows all around us and it is wonderful being able to give something to the community.”

Belding resident Lindsay Tallian, who plays the part of Fruma Sarah, said she was confident the show would be ready for audiences by Friday. Her performance as the butcher’s dead wife is one of the standout moments for the production.

Other area actors appearing in the production include Tyler Willmer of Cedar Springs and Jeremiah Souza of Greenville.

Theater public relations director Cat Sage noted that Monday evening was one of the first times the company has performed with the live orchestra. Despite that, there were surprisingly few “bugs,” which bodes well for opening night.

“We’ve really been lucky with this production,” Sage noted. “We’ve missed a few rehearsals because of the weather, but that’s Michigan. We’re going to be doing a great show.”

Tickets for all performances are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. The theater is located at 438 Union Street in Ionia. For showtimes, call the theater box office at (616) 527-2367.

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