What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
I didn’t see it this way at the time, but, in retrospect, I think Fiddler on the Roof changed my life. My mom used to take my sisters and me to the musicals at Painters Mill Music Fair, or the Mechanic. Because there are so many Jews in Baltimore, some production of Fiddler on the Roof would come through every year. So I saw Herschel Bernardi, Topol, and other people who didn’t become quite as famous. I might have even seen Zero Mostel in it. The aesthetics of Fiddler on the Roof are really powerful. It's not rarified at all, and it’s designed so that anybody could like it. It’s a character-based drama, with characters you care about. It’s funny at the beginning, but then it feels like it’s about something big, grand, and sad. It totally hooks you in, so you’re kind of stuck, and you’re there for the whole ride.
Looking at the work I’ve done, I've been trying to make stories that have the same feelings I got from Fiddler on the Roof at Painters Mill Music Fair. Until I figured out how to do that, I wasn't happy. It just had an enormous impact on me, in making me understand just how good something could be.
Ira Glass, host of This American Life, will speak at MICA on October 10. His appearance is sponsored by WYPR, which airs the radio show each weekend. And This American Life can now be seen on Showtime, or streamed (for free!) via Netflix. Fiddler on the Roof, starring Topol, comes to the Hippodrome Oct 20-Nov 1.