Ah, my favourite time of year has arrived! The leaves are changing colours, kids are back in school, and Theatre NorthWest is opening its first show of the 22/23 season. The last time we opened a show in September was in 2019.
We are truly ecstatic to be offering a four-show season.
The first show bears name recognition for many, Becoming Dr. Ruth.
Many of us know her as a world-famous sex therapist and she certainly is that, but there’s so much more to her story.
Karola Ruth Westheimer was born on June 4, 1928, in Wiesenfeld, Germany to a Jewish family. Before the Second World War began, her parents sent her to an orphanage in Switzerland for her safety.
During the production, we hear about her time there and are introduced to a girl that doesn’t give up hope. A line from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream could act as a mission statement for Dr. Ruth ‘though she be but little she is fierce.’
Westheimer was 17 and only 4 ft 7 inches tall when she joined the Haganah as a scout and sniper. (This was something I never knew about her until reading the play.) She was wounded and almost lost both of her feet. She then moved to France to study psychology and immigrated to America in 1956. She earned her M.A. degree in sociology in 1959 and her doctorate by the time she was 42 years old.
From there, she started with a radio call-in show and went on to have a career hosting several series on various cable television networks. This is just a brief summary of her life, despite being only a one act show we learn so much about Dr. Ruth. The playwright Mark St. Germain has done an exquisite job at capturing this strong Jewish woman. She is funny, inspiring, and shares the most difficult and vulnerable moments with us.
I know some people may be put off by the fact that it is a one-person show, and I can understand that we love to go to the theatre to see actors connecting with one another and we get a glimpse of life from the fourth wall. This show offers real connection as Dr. Ruth shares so much with us in her cluttered Washington Heights apartment in the span of 90 minutes. We feel like we are spending an afternoon with an old friend rather than watching a play.
Actors performing in one- person shows are among the most talented actors I have seen. They have to hold the attention of the audience for the span of the entire show and often take on a multitude of characters and come up with ways to differentiate between them physically and vocally. With Dr. Ruth, we have been fortunate to have found an amazingly talented and giving actress, Natascha Girgis and an equally talented director, Mark Bellamy at the helm. I attended the first read and was mesmerized; engaged the entire time feeling like I was listening Dr. Ruth herself. I urge everyone to get their tickets so they can learn more about our favourite sex therapist. There will be laughter and maybe tears and the honour of hearing this woman’s incredible life story.
Becoming Dr. Ruth runs until October 12th at Theatre NorthWest.
Melissa Glover is an Artistic Associate at Theatre NorthWest and a local actor, director, and teacher