Jerry Girton takes members of his cast through a rehearsel for the Summerset Theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Jerry Girton takes members of his cast through a rehearsel for the Summerset Theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

Summerset plucks the strings of a classic play

Published 1:23pm Sunday, June 8, 2014

Retired theater department director Jerry Girton is returning to Riverland Community College in classic fashion.

Girton will direct the debut Summerset Theatre play for the summer, the beloved musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” at 7 p.m. June 15 and at 7:30 p.m. June 16 to 21.

“It’s one of my favorites,” Girton said. “I was really pleased when they asked me to come back and direct it.”

The play marks Girton’s first time back directing at Riverland after his 2011 retirement. He returns to Riverland to take the helm of a familiar show, as he directed “Fiddler on the Roof” a little more than a decade ago with some of the same cast members.

The show kicks off Summerset’s season on a big note, with a large cast, choreography and, or course, songs.

“It’s such a classic show that it’s fun do it again,” Girton said.

“Fiddler on the Roof” tells the story of Tevye, a father of five daughters in Tsarist 1905 Russia, who attempts to maintain his family and Jewish heritage as the world around them changes, as does his family and his strong-willed daughters.

Though Girton loves the whole show, he particularly loves the song “Tradition.”

“The whole show kind of stems from that,” he said.

Girton celebrated the entire cast for their hard work.

“It’s a very, very good cast — very hardworking and having a lot of fun while they’re working,” Girton said

Girton commended Bob Johnson, playing Tevya, for his stage charisma.

“He’s doing a wonderful job, he’s got a great voice,” Girton said

Brian Johnson, Austin High School’s choir director, is the music director, and Leslie Weber is doing choreography.

 

Robert Johnson, playing the part of Tevye, rehearses with the cast of The Summerset Theatre production of the "Fiddler on the Roof" Tuesday night at Frank W. Bridges Theatre. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Robert Johnson, playing the part of Tevye, rehearses with the cast of The Summerset Theatre production of the “Fiddler on the Roof” Tuesday night at Frank W. Bridges Theatre. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Many returns

For Alice Host, this is her second time in a Girton-run production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” and she was excited for the show, praising Girton for his knack to keep a cast of 40-plus people on task.

“He is just an amazing, amazing director to work for,” she said.

Before, Holst played one of the mamas, but this time she has a featured role: Yente, the village matchmaker. Even though such a matchmaker is a role many would laugh at today, Holst said she enjoys playing a character who believes in her mission of getting people together.

“She’s a very fun character, very direct,” Holst said. “She really believes in what she’s doing.”

Holst, a retired US Bank worker who now works part time at the Development Corporation of Austin, is a veteran of many Summerset and Riverland plays. While she spoke highly of all the music, she also likes the song “Tradition,” as it serves an introduction to the characters.

“Virtually everyone in the cast is in that number,” she said.

For Stephanie Kasel, this also her second time performing in “Fiddler on the Roof” with Girton. She played one of the younger sisters when she was 8 and is now playing Chava.

“I love the story; it’s an age old story,” she said.

This is also a return show for Kasel. She’s performed in several Riverland and Summerset shows, but took several years off to attend Minnesota State University, Mankato. She graduated last month with a degree in accounting and finance and a minor in business administration and is now working for Hormel Foods Corp.

Kasel said her return feels very familiar.

“It’s fun to come back and see how things haven’t really changed very much since I left,” she said.

Kasel enjoys playing Chava, a character who tests her father’s will by announcing her intention to marry Fyedka, a Christian Russian.

“She sort of surprises the audience when she does that,” Kasel said.

 

‘Like he never left’

Since retiring, Girton has directed “The Secret Garden” for Matchbox Children’s Theatre, “Judy, Judy, Judy” at the Paramount Theatre, a play in LaCrosse, Wis., and a few plays in Albert Lea, like “Guys On Ice.”

Girton hasn’t been a stranger to the department he led for 23 year. He’s attended most Riverland plays since his retirement and even had a small role in Summerset’s “Spamalot” last year. He also taught speech at Riverland last semester while Heidi Schara was on sabbatical.

Coming back to direct is fun, if not a little weird, as Girton admitted he doesn’t know where some things are or doesn’t have certain keys.

“It’s a little different but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Despite the differences, Holst said it feels like old times.

“It’s like he never left,” Holst said.

Holst urged the community to come out and support Summerset and local theater.

“The stuff we do here at Riverland is equally as good or sometimes better than what you’d see out of town,” she said.

The cast of Summerset Theatre's "Fiddler on the Roof" performs the song "Tradition" during rehearsel Tuesday night at Frank W. Bridges Theatre. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
The cast of Summerset Theatre’s “Fiddler on the Roof” performs the song “Tradition” during rehearsel Tuesday night at Frank W. Bridges Theatre. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Summerset Theatre’s 47th Season:

All performances will be at Frank W. Bridges Theatre on Riverland Community College’s East Campus, 1900 Eighth Ave. NW, Austin, MN 55912. Season passes: $40 each. Individual tickets on sale now. Call 507-433-0595 or email boxoffice@riverland.edu. Box office hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday The box office is located in room E107 (to the left of the theatre lobby) in the East building.

 “Fiddler on the Roof”

7 p.m. June 15, 7:30 p.m. June 16-21

Book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

Directed by Jerry Girton

In the village of Anatevka, Tevye, a poor dairyman, tries to instill in his daughters the traditions of his tight-knit Jewish community in the face of changing social mores. One of Broadway’s most beloved shows, “Fiddler on the Roof” has touched audiences around the world with its humor and warmth.

Recommended for all ages

“God of Carnage”

7:30 p.m. July 8-12

By Yazmina Reza and translated by Christopher Hampton

Directed by David Dahlquist

A playground altercation between 11-year-old boys brings together two sets of parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses and the rum flows, tensions emerge, leaving the couples with more than just their principles in tatters.

Recommended for ages 12 and over

 “The Odd Couple”

7:30 p.m. July 29-Aug. 2

By Neil Simon

Directed by John Deyo

Meet two mismatched roommates: neat, uptight Felix Ungar and slovenly, easygoing Oscar Madison. As both men recover from their recent divorces, they find familiar patterns beginning to emerge. Called “wildly, irresistibly, incredibly and continuously funny,” “The Odd Couple” is an audience favorite.

Recommended for all ages

—Source: www.riverland.edu/theatre/summerset.cfm


Sign in to Comment | Need help commenting? Click here

Editor's Picks