“Tradition, tradition, tradition!” sings out the cast in the opening number of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Neva Small, the woman who played Tevye’s third daughter, Chava, in the film version of the beloved musical, has always taken this entreaty to heart. Now Small, who has created her own traditions around the character and the movie that helped define her career, will join the local Tucson community at The Loft Cinema for a sing-along screening of the classic film on Sunday, Feb. 25 at noon. Audience members will be whisked away to Anatevka, the fictional Jewish town in czarist Russia, as they join in and sing to their favorite songs. Adding to the fun, Small will judge a pre-show costume contest.
“Playing Chava has been my calling card for life,” says Small. “I was cast in the role when I was very young and it has sustained my identity throughout my entire life.” Some actors might be frustrated by a role defining so much of their career, but not Small. “Many people love Chava and what she stands for and how ahead of the times she was for her interfaith marriage,” she says. “I am woven into her life and she into mine and I’m grateful.”
While in Tucson, Small also will speak in a more intimate setting. On Friday, Feb. 23 at noon, Small will be at the Tucson Jewish Community Center sharing Shabbat lunch and discussing the background of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Her talk will include some glimpses behind the scenes, discussion of the origin stories by Sholem Aleichem, and another sing-along. Small is passionate about sharing this background and has done so in communities all over the country, from Seattle to New York City. “I love the sing-a-longs,” says Small. “It’s my pleasure to do, especially when I also get to describe the background of the movie.”
Small is a public school teacher in New York and shares the lessons she learned from Chava and “Fiddler on the Roof” with her students. “New York is a sanctuary city, much like Tucson, and most of the students I work with are immigrants or first generation but ‘Fiddler’ is not in their universe,” says Small. “Then I show it to them and we study it and learn how much of a parallel it is to their own immigrant experience.”
This event will be a family affair for Small, as her daughter, Barbara Fenig, is the director of arts and culture for the Tucson J. Small is delighted to share something close to her heart with Tucson and her family. “It’s a gift given to me and I consider it my service as a Jew,” says Small. “I look forward to being with your community.”
Tickets for the Tucson Jewish Community Center’s Shabbat Lunch, Learn & Sing on Feb. 23 can be purchased for $10 at tucsonjcc.org/programs/arts/special-events. Tickets for the Feb. 25 screening can be purchased at loftcinema.org/film/the-fiddler-on-the-roof-sing-a-long-with-special-guest.