Ken Skrzesz is familiar being on- and off-stage. His current duty has him playing Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," which is coming to Dover Friday, March 26, and Saturday, March 27. When he's not acting as a triple threat on the stage, though, he's working as executive director of Clear Space Productions. He took some time to talk about his current role and all that goes into it.
Ken Skrzesz is playing “Fiddler on the Roof” everyman Tevye, but it hardly describes him. Renaissance man might be more appropriate. The executive director of Clear Space Productions is a triple threat actor-singer-dancer who has directed, choreographed and taught movement and/or acting internationally, including work in more than 50 plays, musicals and operas. Skrzesz took a few minutes out of costume to talk about how playing Tevye tapped into his Polish roots, and why the show has enjoyed such success for so many years.
Q How did the role of Tevye come to you?
A Doug Yetter, artistic director, wanted to put me in this role. He just thought I was the right age, the right vocal type. That sometimes happens in the universe, but rarely.
Q Was this a role you had wanted to play?
A When I was just out of college and just starting my career, a very small theater company was doing “Fiddler” and cast me as Tevye. It was one of those ridiculous situations where I should have never been cast in that role, but I guess I had the right voice, and I was Polish, I don’t know. But I’ve always looked forward to being the right age and at the right place to play it.
I think he’s everyman. He deals with the change of family, the change of family values. But I think overall, he is committed to the happiness of his children and the happiness of their futures. And that is a universal theme.
Today we’re in the middle of the run and I’m already feeling a little sad about saying goodbye to this experience. This is a really special role to me.
Q You have an extensive dance background. How did that help you in this role?
A My dance career started by studying Eastern European folk dance. My parents sent me to Polish school and right next door to the class was the dance group rehearsing. So the vocabulary of that is in my blood.
Q What is it about this music that has given it such longevity?
A I think it’s based on Eastern European folk tunes and rhythms that so many people connect with.
Q What are the challenges of performing in a musical versus something like “An American Songbook,” the recent concert you did with Doug Yetter?
A Doing a concert is about telling within the concert 18 different little stories, because each song represents a different idea. But in developing a role like Tevye, you really commit to taking the journey in the overture, and commit to bringing the audience along your journey to the end of the show. But it’s one overriding arc, so that’s different for me.
Q Which do you prefer?
A I love both, actually. The concert work is more challenging. This is physically more demanding, but the concert is more challenging because there are different styles of music, you’re constantly stepping into a different character.
Q This is the largest cast you’ve ever had. What are the pros and cons of that?
A I think that the con may be that when there are so many characters, it’s not possible to develop specific relationship with each of them. But, as Tevye would say, “On the other hand,” the number of people brings such a richness of voice, and such a richness of movement, that that’s all blending and is very powerful.