My dad at 19 as Tevye
To hear my dad tell the story, he peaked as an actor when he was around 19 years old and a sophomore in college. While my dad was majoring in English at a university in Taiwan, his English professor Scott Seligman harbored dreams of directing a grandiose college rendition of Fiddler on the Roof in English. Scott had just recently arrived from the US where the film had won an Oscar the year before. Dad had played the lead in two minor plays his freshman year, and after seeing him in those roles, Scott decided that my dad was the man he wanted to play Tevye.

“He just looked Jewish” was how Scott explained it.

Nevermind that the play was a musical and my dad was not a singer. My dad’s English was more than passable and, more importantly, he embodied the spirit of all the characters he played. After receiving the school’s permission to put on the musical, Scott lured my dad to the auditions and, alongside promised lessons from the voice teacher, cast my dad as the lead in Fiddler On the Roof. Dad jumped in with both feet and never looked back.

To say they blew the roof off the university’s auditorium was an understatement. Even 40 years later, the performance is still spoken about at the school. It was the largest production ever done in the school’s history and unique in that the professors and department heads were cast alongside the students.

After its wild opening night success, Fiddler on the Roof went on to tour the country - stopping off at several other schools, including an American all-girls college. My dad started receiving anonymous fan letters from girls.  Those same fan girls waited by the dressing rooms after the musical to speak (and flirt) with him.

This past weekend, Scott came to Dallas on a book tour, promoting the third book he’s written since retiring five years ago. Although he and my father have kept up email correspondence, they hadn’t seen each other in these 40 some-odd years. Looking at the pictures of them side-by-side and hearing about their friendship is proof that there can be those life-altering moments and people that you will keep in the golden-glow of your mind forever.

In addition to encouraging him to be bold with his command of the language, Scott is the reason my dad’s English name is Frank and also why, ever since I can remember, my dad will randomly break into song... “If I were a rich man…”

My Dad and Scott, before and after