“Becoming Dr. Ruth” by Mark St. Germain will open CenterStage Theatre’s 42nd season on Oct. 6-21 at the Louis S. Wolk Rochester Jewish Community Center, 1200 Edgewood Ave., Rochester.
Before Dr. Ruth Westheimer became a popular radio and TV sex therapist, she was born Karola Ruth Siegel in Germany in 1928. She escaped Nazi Germany as a young girl on the Kindertransport, when her mother sent her to live in an orphanage in Switzerland after the Nazis took her father.
In adulthood, her life was a series of adventures that included a stint as a sniper in Jerusalem and being a single mother in America. Her unconventional path led her to a job at Planned Parenthood, where she recognized the need to speak openly about sex and intimacy. Westheimer’s combination of a bold talk and grandmotherly accessibility allowed her to bring the topic of sex into the mainstream for multiple generations.
“Becoming Dr. Ruth” will show at 8 p.m. on Oct. 6, Oct. 13 and Oct. 20; 2 p.m. on Oct. 7, Oct. 14 and Oct. 21; and 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 and Oct. 18.
Westheimer changed the way America talks about sexual health and sexual activities, according to Pebble Kranz from the Rochester Center for Sexual Wellness.
“In the early 1980s, Dr. Ruth was talking about sex freely and joyfully in a time when events and movements in our culture were headed the other direction,” Kranz said. “The frightening beginning of the AIDS era, including political efforts to squelch research and treatments for the disease, and the early rise of the purity movement in the evangelical Christian church were busy putting sex back in the closet after it peeked out in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Dr. Ruth, with her disarming, charming accent, was talking frankly about the value of pleasure, intimacy and the importance of addressing concerns about sexual function.
“Dr. Ruth opened the door for people to talk about sex and to ask their most pressing sexual questions. Popular sex education podcasts and websites likely wouldn’t have existed without Dr. Ruth’s trailblazing radio show.”
Taking on the role of Westheimer is Karin Bowersock, artistic director of Bristol Valley Theater in Naples. Ralph Meranto, artistic director of CenterStage Theatre, selected Bowersock for the role.
“We were both at a wedding for a pair of actors we both knew,” Meranto said. “I was watching her body language across the table, and was reminded of her diminutive size and stature being similar to Dr. Ruth’s. I had seen Karin in performances before and knew her to be an incredibly gifted actress with a talent for accents, so I gave her the script to read and the project blossomed from there.”
“Becoming Dr. Ruth” is a co-production between CenterStage and BVT. It will show on the BVT stage in Naples next summer. Special events tied to this production are “Because of Dr. Ruth … Trends in Sex Education, Therapy and Medicine” with Kranz on Oct. 11 and Rochester Woman Online Diva’s Nite from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 18.
CenterStage’s 42nd season will continue with “The Legend of Georgia McBride” on Dec. 1-16; “The Hit Makers: The British Are Coming” on Feb. 2-17, 2019; “Indecent” on March 30-April 14, 2019; and “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!” on May 4-19, 2019.
Call (585) 461-2000 or visit jccrochester.org for information.