The incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer is the subject of a new play at the JCC CenterStage from October 6-21.
JCC CenterStage Artistic Director Ralph Meranto and Bristol Valley Theater Artistic Director Karin Bowersock, who stars as the endearing doctor in ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth,’ discussed the play and her amazing journey through life Wednesday during News 8 at Noon.
“Dr. Ruth to a generation, a couple generations of people is America’s favorite radio and television sex therapist,” observed Meranto. “I remember I was a teenager when I first started seeing her on TV, and she was talking about things that nobody else talked about on television. But because of her demeanor, and being this charming older Jewish, German lady, she was able to get away with talking about things that nobody else talked about. She really transformed the way that America talked about sex.”
Bowersock has taken on the challenge of becoming Dr. Ruth. “I started with her dialect, because she has a very specific way of talking, and everyone is most familiar and remembers her for that,” she said. “So that was a a real key in for me to finding, to becoming Dr. Ruth.”
Meranto came to his decision to cast Bowersock as Dr. Ruth in an unusual way. “We have auditions for every show that we do,” he explained. “When we picked the show it was because I knew that this was a powerful story. It is not just her sex story, but it is her starting as a Holocaust survivor in Nazi Germany and all of the things she did in her life. So I knew I needed a special performer, and I had seen Karin perform before. I knew she was incredibly talented. I knew she was good with accents. But literally, I was sitting at a wedding of a couple of actors we had both worked with and we happened to be at the table together and I was reminded of her diminutive size and her joyous character. And I was just watching her across the table, and I turned to my wife and I went, there’s my Dr. Ruth. And that started a co-production between JCC CenterStage and Bristol Valley. So we’ll be doing our show to kick off our season starting Saturday the sixth, and then the show will come back and be a part of the Bristol Valley season next summer.”
The co-production is a first both theater groups. Bowersock hopes audiences will find more that what they expect when they come to see the shows. “I think it’s going to be a definite surprise for people who come in thinking they know who Dr. Ruth was. Because she has had a really fascinating life before she became a public figure. But what sort of saw her through, all of her experiences on the Kindertransport, and around the world as a sniper in Palestine. I mean things that you would never think that this little woman could do, she could do. She’s a remarkable woman. She’s an inspirational woman. We were just talking last night, she had three husbands. In the 1950’s she was a single mother in New York City. She did things that women then, they were not doing and that was sort of emblematic of her whole life.”
For tickets and more information about ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’ call (585) 461-2000 or visit JCCCenterStage.org.