From waitressing at Birmingham’s Greek Islands to performing on the West End and the Great White Way, Alexandra Silber has nurtured a passion for the creative and performing arts into a career as both a singer and author.
“Acting is a profession where you’re given permission to do it. With writing, I can engage with it everyday, and the only person giving permission is me. I don’t have to be given permission to create.”
Silber, a Birmingham native who performed locally at the Village Players and at St. Dunstans before finishing high school at Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan, first performed in the musical that would define much of her early career, “Fiddler on the Roof,” at Groves High School during her sophomore year. She then appeared in the show in the United Kingdom as the second-oldest daughter, Hodel, before finally appearing in its recent Broadway incarnation as the eldest daughter, Tzeitel. The musical also provided the foundation for her recently published novel, “After Anatevka.”
“There’s something to be said about growing up in community theater. It’s an incredible place to learn about all different facets of life really early on,” she noted.
The timeless musical, which centers around fathers and daughters, was pivotal for Silber, who lost her father when she was only 18. She used the outlet of writing what would become her debut novel to “finish my own narrative” on her quest towards adulthood. She even traveled to Russia’s Siberia as research, for which she said Michigan winters had prepared her. “Fiddler on the Roof” itself had its world premiere in 1964 at Detroit’s Fisher Theater, so it’s a bit of kismet that a local would find solace in a tale set in a Russian shtetl at the turn of the 20th century.
Now at work on a memoir set in Birmingham, “White Hot Grief Parade,” out next fall, the hyperarticulate Silber sees her childhood dreams of performing on stage as actualized, while she is now on a new journey as a writer.
“Everything I ever could imagine and dream [performing at the Tony Awards] it was and more. It felt like the pinnacle moment of my adolescent dreams come true. There’s something very special about dreams we have as young people – they’re very specific, and to have those dreams fully realized is very rare. We come up with new dreams and new goals, but they’re never quite the same as the ones we first have.”
That is not to say that in her 30s, Silber is done with the stage. Many of her book readings around the country are interspersed with songs from her cabaret shows, and in March, Silber will appear in Detroit with Cabaret 313 for an evening of storytelling through song.
It is this artistic duality that perhaps fits Silber’s talents best. “Acting is an interpretative art form. You get to be creative, but you are interpreting other people’s words and stories and ideas. I find that being able to engage with both of those art forms simultaneously is very rewarding.”
Photo: Billy Kidd