Playwright Mark St. Germain’s Becoming Dr. Ruth marks the return of live, in-person performances at Bay Street Theater, and also kicks off its Summer Mainstage Season. The production stars a Bay Street favorite, renowned actress Tovah Feldshuh.
The play, Becoming Dr. Ruth, is performed in one ninety-minute act and chronicles the life of noted psychologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, from her early years fleeing Nazi Germany, living as an orphan in Switzerland, to her service in the Israeli armed forces as a sharpshooter, and her later life and career in New York.
Hamptons.com caught up with St. Germain while he was at his home in The Berkshires of Massachusetts. He told us, “I think you have two icons: you have Dr. Ruth, who is incredible and a unique person, and then you have Tovah, who has her devotees in the theater and a very dedicated group of fans. To have Tovah doing Dr. Ruth is just really two powerhouses together. I am very excited.”
Becoming Dr. Ruth had its premiere back in 2012 in The Berkshires, at the Barrington Stage Company. When asked about theater being back live, St. Germain said, “Now that’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? That will be the first, I’ve had a lot of things done on Zoom during this whole COVID stretch, but this will be the first time since the shutdown that I will be seeing something live, which is exciting, really exciting.”
When asked if there were any nuanced changes from the 2012, or is it exactly the same production, St. Germain explained, “No, I would say there are changes that Tovah and I worked on off some instinct she had, or the way things were expressed. We did work on some changes.”
Expanding on the play’s star, St. Germain went on to say, “Well, I can remember just being impressed with her very early on. She does have a hardcore fan base and what’s amazing to me is the people who, there are so many people who respect her work in theater, but a 13-year old boy I am mentoring, I just got a copy of her memoir, that Tovah wrote, she had on the back of the book all the different characters she has played. And this boy picked it up and said, ‘Oh My God! You know her?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he starts raving about her. Now there is a picture of her in the back of The Walking Dead, when she played the mayor, and he was just over the moon. She has really had a big career with stage, with television, she’s unique, she’s really unique.”
When asked about his schooling, St. Germain, who is originally from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, said, “For no particular reason, I went to all Catholic schools and universities. I went from Sacred Heart Grammar School to Queen of Peace High School. Then Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey and then Villanova for a Masters.” As for his greatest influences in his writing, he revealed, “I realized only lately that I was really affected by some of the early one-person shows I saw, like Julie Harris doing Emily Dickinson for instance, or James Whitmore doing Will Rogers. Those shows interested me in ways to know the person. As far as other plays, I think Tennessee Williams is still a favorite.”
This will be St. Germain’s first introduction to the world of Bay Street Theater. About that, he said, “I have only heard all good things about it, but I have never been to the stage there. I am looking forward to it.”
In closing, St. Germain said he will be busy beyond this production of Becoming Dr. Ruth. He explained, “My next thing coming up for me is an autobiographical play at the Great Barrington Public Theater called Dad, opening on June 25th. Following that, a play Eleanor, about Eleanor Roosevelt that the actress Harriet Harris is doing at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts opening on July 21st. I have been affiliated with Barrington Stage for 20 years.”
Becoming Dr. Ruth debuts on Friday, June 4 and will run through Sunday, June 27. Performances will be held on Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., and matinee performances on Sundays and Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets are $75 and $85, and $25 for first responders. There will be social-distanced seating arrangements. Theater-goers will have their temperatures taken upon entry and must wear a mask at all times. Proof of vaccination is required.
Bay Street Theater is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.baystreet.org.