04 December, 2017

Questions from Book Tour - Part 2

I wanted this to be the cover. I... didn't win that one.
1. The novel exposes much of the social change and violence in Russia that the characters experience. Did you feel that you wanted to create a different and perhaps more realistic story for the characters than the more sentimental one that existed in Fiddler On The Roof?

I did absolutely. The tone of the world changed dramatically in 1905 after the first Revolution—and Fiddler on the Roof nods to those changes directly with the program, the inter-marriage of Chava, the presence of Perchik and his ideals, and subsequent imprisonment.

But what Fiddler hints at, but does (and can) not directly display, are the true horrors experienced by individuals across the country during that post-1905 era. These are the brutalities endured particularly by women, children, the elderly, political activists and the religiously displaced. I wanted to add those very real adversities realistically to the plot, to throw light on a profoundly dark era, and in doing so, give our protagonists the dignity they deserve for they have the strength and capacity to endure such horrors.

I receive some strong "criticism" that the book is "dark" or "not like Fiddler—" both of which I don't interpret as criticism at all. Not only because those points are both accurate, but moreover, I am extremely proud of them!

Everything changed in 1905. The world became a harsher place. By hiding those truths, by brushing them under the rug, avoiding the horrors entirely and treating them like mere historical 'unpleasantness,' I rob Hodel, Perchik (and the millions of human beings they represent) of their strength and capacity to endure. Historical fiction is fiction, yes, but it is also historical. A history that was real, and thus must be accurate because the authors are choosing to set their tale truthfully in a time and place different from our own and it is important that we tell the truth. Details matter. Truth matters.

2. When did you start writing After Anatevka and did the writing process affect how you approached your role in the play?

I began writing the book about a year after I completed playing Hodel so it did not have an impact on her portrayal. However it did have a great impact on my portrayal of Tzeitel on Broadway, and subsequently, I utilized that knowledge and put it back into the manuscript before finally submitting it. It truly was stage to page, page to stage, and back again.

3. If you were writing/editing during the New York production, how did your role as Tzeitel affect your writing of hat is basically Hodel's story?

I realized that I had judged Tzeitel! Not unlike the way siblings judge one another growing up and come to understand the complexities more finely as they grow up.

One of the things so fascinating about being a human being is that we can all experience the exact same upbringing, parental guidance (or sadly, sometimes, lack thereof) the same birthday parties, high schools, teachers, elections, vacations… the list goes on. We can have identical experiences, and yet, interpret those experiences totally differently for a myriad of reasons. It’s one of the great joys of growing up— reconciling those differences and hopefully making sense as well as peace.

I suppose that is exactly what happened between Hodel and Tzeitel for me, the only difference was the experience occurred at the same geographical address. The result is a real dialogue between my older and younger “selves” and I believe one of the strongest parts of the narrative.

4. What is a fun fact people might not know about you?

I’m an introvert. In fact, according to the Myers Briggs personality test, I’m a super-introverted  INFJ (which is a very rare personality type, about 2% of the world’s population).

Many—if not most—people challenge me on this, based on their misimpressions of not only me but introverts in general. They meet me for 5 minutes and perceive me as "gregarious" or "friendly—" both of which I am the majority of the time. But those qualities are not antithetical to introversion. Introverts are not necessarily aloof, shy, people-hating trolls, we simply recharge our personal batteries in solitude.

Some unsolicited advice? If a person shares with you that they are an introvert, never say “But you’re so friendly” or “but you’re not shy” or, the worst of all: “No you’re not!” Comments like these are degrading to Introverts (who are not necessarily aloof, shy, socially anxious or rude). The final statement especially attacks the person’s sense of self, and knowledge of self. All of these comments are presumptuous and abrasive.

If you are surprised to learn that a person declares themselves to be an introvert, it is perfectly appropriate to respond with “Oh really? I find that very surprising, please tell me more,” but to deny what an Introvert is, or worse, that a person does not fully know themselves is rude at best, particularly if the individual prides themselves on their self-awareness. It is wise to assume that you are not the expert on anyone but your self. Ask questions before making any statements.

Despite my highly developed extrovert behavior, I still require (and enjoy!) lots of time alone to process life, abhor small talk, love to socialize in small groups, treasure my closest friends, and enjoy quiet, solo activities above all others. These all indicate that I am a powerfully introverted person— it does not mean that I don’t have highly developed extrovert behavior! But that behavior is energetically “expensive,” and I must always recharge from it.

5. It is highly unusual for someone to both act as a popular character (Hodel) and then to create a novel. Are you hoping to continue as a writer by creating more novels or do you prefer to continue more of your career in acting and singing?

I do not intend to stop professionally engaging in either! It has been my honor to enjoy such a varied and ongoing career on the stage, and writing has brought be extraordinary creative pleasure—We only get one life. Why limit oneself? I desire a rich and textured life full of a variety of experiences from the personal to the professional.

Is it at times challenging juggling doing multiple things? Certainly.
Rewarding? Inexplicably.

An example: Motherhood is an expansion of Womanhood, not the definition of it. So too is becoming a professional writer an expansion of my artistic identity. It is an expansion of my artistry, not the definition of it.

Society often associates “success” with a very vertical trajectory of accumulated rewards. “More." More things, more wealth, more possessions, more accomplishments, Broadway shows, fame, followers, etc. But I desire a wider trajectory of “more." More experiences, more connections, more skills, more cultures, knowledge, satisfied curiosities, and, I suppose, more careers. I’ve said it before, but success is not about what you do, it is about how you feel about what you do, and I feel my best when I am contributing to the world, and connected to a sense of attempting to fulfill my maximum possible potential for one lifetime.

When I am done with this life, I want to feel like I wrung every last drop out of life's washcloth.


  1. Beautifully written Al. Thank you for articulating what it means to be INFJ with such compassion and aplomb.

    I too am INFJ and throughout my life, I’ve been judged, criticized and labeled as withdrawn and distant by people who were close to me.

    It’s frustrating enough to be misunderstood, but no one should ever have to defend or justify who they are to anyone.

    In spite of the jeans issue, I hope all is well with you.
    Beautifully written Al. Thank you for articulating what it means to be INFJ with such compassion and aplomb.

    I too am INFJ and throughout my life, I’ve been judged, criticized and labeled as withdrawn and distant by people who were close to me.

    It’s frustrating enough to be misunderstood, but no one should ever have to defend or justify who they are to anyone.

    I hope all is well with you.

    1. I KNEW from meeting you for 30 seconds you were an INFJ. So is my mother, my oldest friend Arielle and her husband! We’re special people not to be overlooked or told what is “wrong” with us.

  2. Thanks Alexandra.

  3. You are so brilliant, I’m so lucky to have you in my life.

  4. I am an INTP! This is SO refreshing to hear, of all people, a PERFORMER and artist speak about being introverted in a non-pejorative manner. We are NOT aloof-- we are just recharging! :)

  5. After reading your blog yesterday I found this on facebook today...

    We all have that one friend who is perfectly fine with spending the majority of their time alone. Maybe they are the type of person who would rather be snuggled up in bed with a good book. Perhaps they are the sort who finds large crowds to be intimidating. Introverts often get a bad rap from those who do not understand them. But did you know that they share a number of awesome personality traits?

    For starters, a person who does not like to spend a lot of time around others isn’t as hateful as you may think. They actually tend to like other people and appreciate them quite a bit. An introvert might take more time to connect with another person, but once they have established a friendship? That person is often one of their best buddies for life.

    They are not judgmental. In fact, they tend to be some of the most open minded people that you’ll ever have to chance to meet. They treasure peace and quiet. However, a person who prizes solitude tends to be more likely to see both sides of a situation. Don’t ever make the mistake of assuming that an introvert is not willing to put aside their preconceived notions.

    Neurotic is not a word that should ever be associated with an introvert either. Being a loner does not mean that you are neurotic. Neurotic people tend to be full of depression and anxiety. The introvert is able to spend a great deal of time alone because they are at peace with who they are. They do not seek validation from external sources.

    The introvert is a fantastic listener. They do not always like to talk, but they definitely love to listen. An introvert is one of the most loyal friends that a person can ever hope to have. Lastly, they are easily overwhelmed. Social situations do not bother them in the slightest, but they are not the type of person who likes to spend a significant amount of time among a large crowd.

    Being alone and able to parse their own thoughts is very important to the introvert. If you have any friends or family members who are introverts by nature, be sure to pass this story along. If there is one thing that an introvert appreciates, it is someone who is willing to take the time to learn more about them. Let’s leave our preconceived ideas of what an introvert is like in the past, please.

  6. "Motherhood is an expansion of Womanhood, not the definition of it."

    You cannot imagine how profoundly I needed to read that sentence. Thank you.



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