In these very early stages of the rehearsal process, the most important task for me has been to start getting to know my character, to understand why he makes decisions the way he does, and building an emotional profile of what makes Tateh an individual. Solidifying and tweaking the back story the novel gives us allows me to interpret his objectives and priorities, and what he is willing to do to realize these. For example, it is imperative that I create the circumstances for Tateh’s migration to America: why is he going, what urgency does he have, etc… With Jeff’s help, and the insight of Rabbi Jeremy at the Freeman Center, I determined that the choice that both creates more interesting behavior and is likely more accurate is that of a struggle for survival. Persecution of Jews in Latvia was increasingly widespread and violent during this time period, as Jules pointed out to me. Pogroms killed many, and were an impetus for many others to flee Eastern Europe. Because this motivation behind Tateh’s flight would raise the stakes most, and create a higher sense of urgency, it is the most interesting to incorporate into the role.
An important inference to make from this is that Tateh’s immigration was mainly to protect his little girl, who he claims multiple times is his reason for living. This shows me that all of Tateh’s choices in the musical derive from that one objective: to make the little girl’s life better. This manifests itself in act one as intense protection, as Tateh keeps his guard up well after he arrives in America. More generally throughout the show, he tries to improve her life by achieving the American dream, succeeding and giving her the easy life that had eluded them. Next in the process I’ll look to color individual moments using this profile as a jumping off point, and try to incorporate my own impulses to create a natural presence.