Arturo Hilario | El Observador
With a degree in Law and International Affairs, Maite Uzal was ready for a life of litigation and was practicing a career in law for three years until her true passion took the reins. Despite her best intentions within the law field, her heart was set on acting. Eight years later, she is playing the emotionally diverse role of Golde on stage for “Fiddler on the Roof”.
“Fiddler on the Roof” tells the story of a Jewish family at the beginning of the twentieth century, led by father/mother duo of Tevye and Golde. The musical focuses on the family’s struggles, as well as their resolve through dealing with the old marriage traditions of the culture and the new generation’s search for true love.
Recently Uzal let us into the world of acting by answering some questions about her own journey from lawyer to performer, as well as her role in “Fiddler on the Roof”, which comes to the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts from May 21 – May 26, 2019.
Hello Maite, thanks for the interview. To start off, I wanted to get to know more about your theater roots. How did you get started in the arts?
I moved to New York City 8 years ago and there I studied the Musical Theater Integrated Program at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and then after that I just started auditioning and insisting and insisting and insisting, and booking jobs, and that was it.
Was acting something you had been craving to do from your youth? I see in your resume that you have a law degree. How did that turn into acting?
Oh yes. I don’t remember a specific moment or event where I went, “Oh! I want to be an actress.” I have the memory of always wanting to be an actress. I think maybe because my parents took me to every show that they went to since I was very young, meaning a baby, a toddler. So maybe, it was that moment that sparked that passion for theater then. So yes, I always wanted to be an actress, the thing is that it wasn’t until I was older that I had the courage to pursue that passion because initially before that I was a lawyer – what my family wanted me to do.
I grew up and was raised and geared towards me studying law, and I guess I used to be very obedient. So, I stared law, I worked as a litigator for three years but then like my passion for theater and me knowing I wanted to be an actress never stopped, it got even worse. So, at one point, I said, “You know, this is enough.” And, I auditioned for the school in New York, got admitted, and that was it. And here we are today!
Now, does that past career ever come up or have you moved on from that?
I think that it’s something that we study in depth and that we acquire a significant amount of knowledge were I to play a lawyer. Of course, any actor could do the research and that’s why every professional actor that knows how to do their job will be successful but maybe it’ll ring closer to home for me and maybe I’ll call a colleague from law school and have coffee with him. On the other hand, I do believe it has given me, for example some muscle memory in studying something. Like when you have to study a case it may be easier to go to acting school having that habit of analyzing things and preparing and writing a paper, so for me it wasn’t, “Oh my god I have to read this book! And I have to write the paper!”
I had done that so many times, so it was so easy compared to maybe the 18-year-olds who were fresh out of high school. Also, I think that every actor, no matter what character you play, you have to be your characters lawyer. You always have to put their best case forward.
How would you describe the story of “Fiddler on the Roof”?
I’d say [the play] has three layers to it that are clearly written and beautifully intertwined with each other. When you’re seeing the show maybe you don’t really realize because it’s like a cake that is really well done. You think you noticed the layers but they all melt in your mouth. It’s about family, it’s about the struggle of a family that grows up together and facing the old way versus the new ways, the traditions, and how the girls in the family challenge those traditions and the parents have to decide if they give into the challenge that is presented to them, or not.
Then there is a layer of dialogue between Tevye and god. There’s always a constant dialogue between [them]. Then there is a third layer which makes “Fiddler on the Roof” a story of refugees, not immigrants, because we don’t have a choice and an immigrant does. Which is the fact that in 1905 there’s another community who sees us as “the other” and a danger too. So those three layers are combined, it’s a play about love, tradition and refugees really, I think.
Could you tell me about your role as Golde?
Well, Golde is the sharp-tongued, quick-witted wife of Tevye. See one of the things that struck me as more challenging about this character is that she doesn’t know how to read. Her day revolves around bringing the household afloat. Like all of the million chores that she has to do as a housewife, she barely leaves the house and her little farm and her plot of land.
She has to take care of all the daily chores and the girls and really Tevye in many occasions she has to juggle with all of that, multitask so that everyday everything that needs to be done gets done. She’s very strong-willed, she’s very superstitious which Tevye takes advantage of at a certain point of the play, and she’s been described as fierce, and I think the fierceness is a circumstance that she’s born into. She’s very stoic, she’s very strong and the first thing on her mind is her family.
What would you say is your favorite part about this role and/or working on this play in general?
About this role I think Golde is truly, truly, truly a gift for any actress that plays the roles, because she goes through every single emotion you could think of. There’s comedy, there’s tragedy, all the in between. So that’s very rewarding as an actor, to play all of that.
Then specifically on this production working with all the creative team has been a gift, working with [the director] Bartlett Sher, having been directed by him has been just a privilege and an honor. Also precisely because of his view of the play and the concept that he’s wanted to bring with this revival.
For those that haven’t gone to this show, why would you say it would be a great experience or important experience to go to “Fiddler on the Roof”?
I’ve got many reasons but I’m going to try and summarize. They think they don’t know “Fiddler on the Roof” but they have heard the songs. The songs are in their underlying, sort of in their DNA and they’re going to recognize the music and the beautiful score and they’re going to walk out of the theater humming the songs and singing the songs, it happens all the time.
They’re going to enjoy the choreography so much, the dances. And third, I am positive that they are going to be touched and transformed by the story because its still so relevant to this day and so powerful. It truly is a celebration of life.
“Fiddler on the Roof” will be in San Jose from Tuesday, May 21, 2019 through Sunday, May 26, 2019. Single tickets ($43–$153) are on-sale now at broadwaysanjose.com.