Talking with ‘Fiddler’ actor before St. Louis opening

Alan Schmuckler will perform as Motel, the tailor, in the Muny’s production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Name shame no more

I wonder if Juliet would have surmised otherwise had she asked, “What’s in a name?” and it turned out the name was Schmuckler.

That’s Schmuckler as in Alan Schmuckler, who arrived in town from New York last week to play the role of Motel, the tailor, in the Muny’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which opens Saturday night and runs through Aug. 5.

Schmuckler, 32, admits that growing up with his last name didn’t smell as sweet as any rose he ever encountered. “It was real rough in elementary and middle school,” he said, explaining that he attended Yavneh Academy, a Modern Orthodox day school in Paramus, N.J. “I got teased about it a lot. And I mean a lot.”

After he graduated from Northwestern University, having majored in theater, he was advised by an agent to change his last name. He considered Lawrence, his middle name, but decided otherwise.

“I thought about changing it for a hot second. As much as I liked Alan Lawrence it just didn’t feel like who I am. My name is Alan Schmuckler. After slogging through grade school and hating the name, I finally felt that I earned my stripes to keep it.”

In a way, he says, that experience makes him feel even more connected to “Fiddler,” given its poignant themes of knowing who you are and where you came from. “Alan Schmuckler has always been part of my identity and I proudly embrace it,” he said. “It is my tradition.”

Schmuckler and I spoke on the first day of rehearsal for the play, when outside temperatures hovered around 100 degrees. Welcome to St. Louis, Alan!

“The heat here is definitely an experience unlike any other I had before,” he said, laughing. “It bonds the cast very quickly as we bake and swelter together.”

Growing up Jewish in suburban New Jersey, Schmuckler remembers seeing a Broadway production of “Fiddler” in the late 1980s or early 90s. “But I grew up watching the film version of it,” he said.

When asked how he and Motel, his character in the play, are alike, he responded: “He’s sweet and a craftsman and gets nervous and has a big heart. 

“He also cares a lot about tradition and customs and family, and all of that resonates with me. He knows what it’s like to be in love and I know what that’s like. He cares about building a future and I understand that, too.”

Building a future is one thing, but Schmuckler might be the busiest performer you have yet to hear about (until now!). In addition to acting, he is an accomplished composer, lyricist and musical director. His resume is packed with a diverse range of theatrical projects, including composing the music and writing lyrics for “Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me” (book by Dave Holstein), a musical adaptation/satire of the SERIAL podcast, which he hopes will receive more widespread attention in the near future (though he was reluctant to say too much about that). During downtime at “Fiddler” rehearsals, he was either retooling one song or another, or drafting a new one for a musical he’s working on. 

“I’ve become an excellent multitasker,” he said. “I like to work and stay busy. Thankfully, I’ve been doing both careers (acting and music) for long enough that I know how to make best use of my time. 

“When I get back to New York, I have a whole lot of deadlines coming up,” he added, “so I expect I’ll be chained to my piano for a while.”

For tickets and more information about the Muny’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” go to the or call 314-361-1900.

Party at the pantry

The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry will be celebrating its 25th anniversary at the end of August. To mark the occasion, the Jewish Light, and yours truly in particular, would love to hear stories, from volunteers as well as anyone who has benefitted from its services, about what the pantry has meant to them, or the Jewish community, or the community at large. All anecdotes are welcome as long as they are PG. Feel free to send them to [email protected]

In addition, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, which oversees the food pantry, is throwing a 25thbirthday party to celebrate 25 years from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28. at the pantry’s headquarters at 10601 Baur Blvd. Highlights of the celebration include a live DJ, strolling circus performers, snow cones, tours, a selfie booth, service projects and much more. 

The event is open to the public.  Admission and all activities and snacks are free.  Guests are asked to bring donations of food items.  

Begun in 1991, the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry now serves more than 7,000 people every month.

The celebration is being co-chaired by two mother-daughter pairs, Alice Ludmer and Stephanie Gross (the latter of whom is a Jewish Light trustee) and Evelyn Cohen and Emily Rosenfeld (Bravo TV host Andy Cohen’s mom and sis).

For more information about the event or to RSV,P visit