‘Fiddler’ features Aspen native
October 31, 2006
Having spent an enormous chunk of her life in the theater, Tammy Baar learned to envision herself in a multitude of roles, both on proper stages and in alternate settings: cast member in the Crystal Palace’s satirical revue, an array of characters in musical theater, director of children’s productions, clown. But when the Aspen native was cast in the role of the Mother Abbess for Aspen Community Theatre’s production of “The Sound of Music,” in 2004, it took some wriggling to fit into the skin of the matronly overseer of the convent and its inhabitants.Baar, who had moved back to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1995 after nearly two decades in Los Angeles, auditioned for “The Sound of Music” largely for the opportunity to work with the show’s director, Marisa Post. Baar describes her experience in the musical as “magical,” thanks to the synergy with Post and the rest of the cast and crew, and how she came to believe that the song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” might as well have been written for her voice. In the longer run, playing the Mother Abbess introduced Baar to the next phase of her onstage life.”It’s a shift when you’re aging,” said Baar, who was 44 when she appeared in “The Sound of Music.” “You’re used to thinking of yourself as an ingenue. Then you look in the mirror and see laugh lines and say, ‘Wait, I’m not the ingenue anymore.’ So, could I be the Mother Abbess?”She could. ACT’s production of “The Sound of Music” was spectacular, and Baar’s strong performance was a key component. The role seemed to suit the actress, and Baar began to plot her acting future.”Once I opened the door to playing older parts,” said Baar, who lives in Snowmass Village with her husband, Fred Dick, and their two children, 16 and 4, “it made me think, what else would be fun to play? And Golde” – the mother in “Fiddler on the Roof” – “was definitely one of them. When ACT announced they were doing ‘Fiddler,’ I thought, ‘Oh, I want to be Golde.'”Her wish comes true; when “Fiddler on the Roof” opens tonight at the Aspen District Theatre, Baar will play the role of the beleaguered, dutiful wife and mother Golde, opposite Pat Holloran as Tevye, her pious, troubled husband. And Baar is finding that the role is even more of a challenge.
“Mother Abbess was easy for me,” she said. Golde “is such a complex woman. She has an edge, her husband drives her crazy, she’s kind of nagging. But she feels things deeply. She’s watching her children go through things she doesn’t want them to go through. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a role like that, with multiple scenes and having to move the story forward.”Before “The Sound of Music,” it had been a long time since Baar appeared with ACT. As a 17-year-old, Baar played Glinda the Good Witch in the organization’s first-ever production, “and yet another version of ‘The Wizard of Oz,'” that combined the original “Wizard of Oz” with the musical “The Wiz.”That production actually hearkened back even further, “and yet another version …” was a reunion of sorts of people who had participated in a production of “The Wizard of Oz” seven years earlier. That presentation by the Aspen Theatre Institute featured a 10-year-old Tammy Baar.
“I was the oddity in the family,” said Baar, whose parents, now deceased, settled in Aspen in the ’40s, after her father, Curt, served in the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army. (Curt, an immigrant from Austria, owned the Little Bavaria restaurant; developed the Center lodge, where the Little Nell now stands; and owned Tom’s Market for 20 years. Tammy’s mother, Trudy, founded the Aspen Ski Swap.) “My brothers were ski racers, and I was the performer. I was totally devoted to the performing aspect of life.”After spending her childhood on too many local stages to remember – including in the basement of the Wheeler Opera House and in the Marolt Barn – Baar earned her BFA in drama and dance from the University of Southern California. In Los Angeles, she had a busy career that included television appearances, though theater remained closest to her heart. “Stage is my number one love, and always has been,” she said.Other callings, however, began to eclipse professional ones. When her daughter, Shannon, approached kindergarten age, the family moved back to the valley.”I loved my career in L.A.,” Baar said. “But thinking back, I call it my ‘narcissistic 20s.’ It was all about me.”
Baar had to find other novel avenues to satisfy her theater itch, and she found it in Kidtoon Productions, her company that provides entertainment for kids’ events. The star of the company is Baar herself, in a clown costume.”That was borne out of when we were in California, and we’d have entertainers at my daughter’s birthday parties,” she said. “I’d think, aach, I could do so much better.”I thought I might do a little bit for fun. I didn’t think it would turn into a big deal. But it’s just another side of acting.”Baar spent seven years in the cast of the Crystal Palace, but lately she has taken a turn away from adult entertainment in favor of kids’ stuff. She directs elementary school productions; teaches music – in Music Together classes and in preschools; and is an instructor for Theatre Aspen’s children’s classes.The part of Mother Abbess introduced Baar to a new sort of role in the acting realm, and playing Golde has given her a way to use that fresh perspective. Since childhood, she has loved “Fiddler on the Roof” – but she had always seen it from the perspective of the daughters, who were falling in love and moving toward marriage.
“And now, of course, I’m looking at it as a parent and it’s so different,” she said. “How can you not feel it so deeply? As a parent, you’re always confronting having to let them go.”Baar has hasn’t given up her stage aspirations. She has just recast her notion of what makes for a choice role.”Mama Rose,” from “Gypsy,” she said. “That’s the big dream role.”For more coverage of “Fiddler on the Roof,” see the Friday, Nov. 3, edition of The Aspen Times.:Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org