Cranford Repertory Theater upholds charitable tradition
By Bea Smith - Staff Writer

The Eagle —Worrall Newspapers
Thursday— March 9, 2000

[News Article - Fiddler on the Roof] One of the finest attributes of the Cranford Repertory Theater Co. is that with each production, it conducts an outreach charity. And with its latest production, “Fiddler on the Roof,” now in rehearsal, the outreach charity will be for the Interfaith Council for the Homeless of Union County.

“The benefit for this organization related to the similarity in the play when the Jewish people had to leave their homes in Anatevka, a small peasant town in Czarist Russia,” explained Tom Pedas, director.

Past beneficiaries of CRT's philanthropy have been Bridges, a Summit-based organization to feed the homeless; Family Care; Famine Relief; Christian Rescues of the Holocaust; Hole in the Wall Gang Camp; Children's Specialized Hospital; Plainfield Soup Kitchen; St Barnabas Burn Unit; Charitea, and the Make-a-Wish- Foundation.

Pedas, who currently teaches music at Hillside Avenue School in Cranford, is “absolutely thrilled to be directing one of my very favorite musicals.” He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Choral Directors Association of New Jersey and was named “Master Teacher” of New Jersey by the New Jersey Music Educators Association for his “dedicated service to the education of youth.” Pedas is the director of the Celebration Singers, founded the Children's Chorus, which is in its fifth year, he is founder-director of the Linden Summer Playhouse, “which is 18 years old —I started a scholarship fund that is still being given to youngsters with talent in music” — and which he directed for seven years, and he also has taught award-winning choirs at both Linden High School and Cranford High School.

The Cranford Repertory Theater's production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is scheduled for April 1, 2, 8, 9 at Cranford High School. Rehearsals are being conducted at Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim, Linden, which will be sponsoring the production. Tickets for dress rehearsal will be made available for senior citizens and various Union County Family Care organizations at no cost. The temple has agreed to provide rehearsal space and the funds for the initial expenses. It also will take an active part in various production activities and advertising. Profits will be split between Cranford Repertory Theater and Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim and will be used for youth programs.

“The theater's Board of Directors selected the show,” said Pedas, “and they knew how much I love the show that they selected me to be its director. We have cast members from 7 years old to 70, with a cast of about 50 people.” The people come from all walks of life and, according to Stephen Solomon of the Linden synagogue, “they have a variety of theater experiences ranging from the novice to some with professional credits. For some, this is their first live experience. For all cast members, it's an opportunity to improve their skills and gain confidence in a professionally managed live theater production. Volunteers build most of the sets and create most of the costumes. This is yet another opportunity for people to learn some of the technical aspects of live theater production.”

Pedas said that “it's a real challenge for me. I'm used to working with large numbers of people. Really that's what makes it a challenge. And ‘Fiddler,’ ” he exclaimed, “is one of the best shows ever written. There is so much to be learned.

“You know,” Pedas sighed, “when it's done in different languages—whether it's Greek, or Japanese or Italian or any other language, those people think about their own, bravery and faith and the values of different nationaltities. Even in my own family, I relate. ”

Rehearsals for the eighth-longest-running musical on Broadway began at the end of January. “We were rehearsing three or four times a week in Temple Beth El Mekor Chaim,” said Pedas. “I know people are involved in other activities so I tried to schedule rehearsals around them. When I scheduled a big rehearsal on Super Bowl Sunday, it was a master-piece of scheduling,” he laughed. “Everybody was home, They didn't like it, but they came. We'll be rehearsing until the end of March just before the show opens.

“This is a good theater company,” Pedas said proudly. The Cranford Repertory Theater was founded both to “provide top rate, community theater productions and to make a contribution to the community and strive to make a difference, both artistically and philanthropically. At the end of every performance, donations are collected for a particular outreach.”

Pedas explained that “I'm wearing many hats in this one. In the past, I did vocal music for ‘Oliver!’ and ‘Anything Goes.’ In ‘Fiddler,’ I'm directing the vocal music, orchestra and I'm directing the whole play—three different hats,” he grinned. “Every song in this show is just wonderful. My orientation is teaching. And you know, I'm amazed at how many youngsters are not familiar with ‘Fiddler.’

“It's so wonderful for me to expose it to so many people at one time,” he said. “We're learning a lot, particularly by rehearsing in a Jewish synagogue. The cast members are learning a lot about other people's faith and tolerance — and how wonderful people can be.”

Pedas recalled that “in 1980, I directed ‘Fiddler’ in Scotch Plains, and I had to do a lot of rehearsing. I read a book called ‘The Making of a Musical’ and learned how ‘Fiddler’ went through so many changes. It's wonderful that I did a lot of reading and visiting synagogues and talking to rabbis.

“Now, we're in a synagogue for rehearsals. It's a real eaxperience for the cast members. Rather than explaining things to them, they see it first hand, and they're right around the people they portray.”

Pedas had to make a lot of casting decisions. He said he wants to use as many people as he possibly can for “Fiddler on the Roof,” and because of this, “I might split parts and give more people more opportunity to perform.”

Among the principal cast members are Nicole Caprio of Cranford, who plays Tzeital; Eddie Egan of Cranford, as Perchik; Kerin Eyler of Edison, Chava; Molly Frieri of Cranford, Hodel; Daniel Kazemi of Springfield, Motel; Hai Landis of Elizabeth, Lazar Wolf; Jordon Levy of Springfield, Fyedka; Charles Roessler of Westfield, Tevye, Mary Webb of Cranford, Yenta, and Jeanne Woerner of Piscataway, Golde.

Pedas, who received a bachelor of science degree in music education from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and a master's degree in choral music from Teachers College of Columbia University, said, “I love what I do. I love theater,” he exclaimed. “Teaching first and theater directing second. I love it all! ”

Tom Pedas, The Celebration Singers and Children's Chorus


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