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New Jewish Theatre Explores Dr. Ruth’s Life

Actress Susie Wall plays Dr. Ruth Westheimer in the New Jewish Theatre's one-woman play.
New Jewish Theatre

Actress Susie Wall is talking about sex. On stage. As Dr. Ruth. But she’s not impersonating Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

“The issue is for it not to be an impersonation,” said Jerry McAdams, who is directing Mark St. Germain’s one-woman play “Becoming Dr. Ruth” at the New Jewish Theatre. “The most important thing is she is so well known that if you try to be Dr. Ruth in kind of a cartoonish sense, you’ll lose the audience. This is a terrific actress who’s doing a really good script.”

“Becoming Dr. Ruth” follows the life of Westheimer, who fled from Nazis in the Kindertransport, joined the Haganah in Jerusalem as a scout and sniper, struggled as a single mother in America and became the nation’s most famous sex therapist.

“She paid her dues and she taught a lot,” McAdams told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter. “She always said that she learned more from her students than from her studies.”

McAdams said Westheimer’s career was a calling.

“In the Jewish tradition, sex is not a vulgar or dirty thing. It’s to be celebrated because it’s part of life. She really wanted to clean up those misconceptions about sex.”

Westheimer was able to succeed in that role.

“People want to talk about sex and suddenly here was a little matronly woman who did and (she’s) not threatening. And she made them laugh,” Wall said.

McAdams said the story appealed to him because of Westheimer’s drive.

“I think it’s a story about an extraordinarily driven, charming and smart woman who overcame a lot of hurdles,” he said. “She’s truly a survivor. But not a survivor at the risk of her life. More a survivor to meet her own needs and her own expectations.”

Related Event

“Becoming Dr. Ruth”

  • When: Dec. 4-21, 2014
  • Where: Jewish Community Center’s Wool Studio Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.