“Becoming Dr. Ruth,” written by Mark St. Germain and starring Eileen Koteles, will return to Atlanta on Nov. 13, 17, 19 and 20 at Temple Emanu-El.
George Fox, well known for directing several successful productions at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA), Etz Chaim, Temple Emanu-El and Dunwoody United Methodist Church, will direct the one-woman show. He has directed such well-known hits as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Annie, Get Your Gun,” “Glory Days” and “My Fair Lady.” Producer is Sandy Ferko, who has worked with Fox on several previous productions throughout Atlanta.
Chronicling the life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Koteles takes the audience on a journey through the famous sex therapist’s life, from her escape to Switzerland as a young child attempting to flee the Holocaust to her stint as a sniper for Haganah during Israel’s 1948 fight for statehood. Her hard work, and yet almost serendipitous rise to become America’s foremost sex therapist, is recounted in this moving and funny show.
Performed in the temple’s sanctuary, the staging takes Koteles as Dr. Ruth into the audience to tell her story. According to Fox, “The chairs in the sanctuary will be rearranged to facilitate Dr. Ruth getting as close as possible to audience members. Eileen truly becomes Dr. Ruth, nailing her accent and mannerisms, and we want people to feel that they get to know her during the show,” he shared.
Fox, his wife, Michele, and Ferko first saw Koteles perform the show in Dalton, Ga. All four knew each other from past productions they had worked on together. They were so impressed that they decided to bring the show to Atlanta. The first run was at Dunwoody’s Stage Door Theatre in February 2021. Due to COVID, the audience size had to be greatly limited, but the group was determined for the show to be seen by a broader audience at some point in the future. Almost a year ago to the day, the team began discussing a November 2022 revival of “Becoming Dr. Ruth” at Temple Emanu-El with Rabbi Spike Anderson.
Fox has held a longtime love affair with the theatre, beginning in high school when he served as the assistant to his camp’s acting director. When the director resigned four years later, Fox stepped in to manage the summer productions for the camp. Fast forward to Emory University School of Law, when Fox and two university deans founded Ad-hoc Productions, and began staging shows at the university for students, faculty and friends. Describing himself as a self-taught director, Fox believes his early introduction to the theatre as a young boy in New York City made him a keen observer of human behavior, whether onstage or off.
“I would watch each show to see how they worked. I wanted to know what appealed to audiences,” said Fox.
“George often brings in an audience in advance of opening night to see how people will react to the show,” said Carole Schemo, who has acted in several of Fox’s productions. “He pulls out the very best in his actors and helps them to literally become their characters. People who have been in his shows know that he will change details even through the production’s run, striving for the best possible version of each performance,” she stressed.
Ferko has worked as the producer on several of Fox’s shows. The two first met at Temple Emanu-El. In fact, Ferko followed Fox as president of the congregation. As he planned to stage “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” his first production at the MJCCA, Fox asked Ferko to be his producer. While initially hesitant since she had not participated in theatre since her days in high school, Fox felt confident Ferko could do the job.
“For George’s birthday, I gave him a box that contained a note that read, ‘For your birthday, I will produce your show.’ And here I am, eight shows later. We call my response that day the gift that keeps on giving,” joked Ferko.
Show times for “Becoming Dr. Ruth” are 4 p.m. on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20; 7 p.m. on Nov. 17; and 8 p.m. on Nov. 19. Tickets are $36 for adults and $18 for students and may be purchased at templeemanuelatlanta.shulcloud.com/event/becoming-dr.-ruth.html.
- Arts and Culture
- Debbie Diamond
- “Becoming Dr. Ruth"
- Mark St. Germain
- Eileen Koteles
- Temple Emanu-El
- George Fox
- Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
- Etz Chaim
- Dunwoody United Methodist Church
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
- Get Your Gun
- Glory Days
- My Fair Lady
- Sandy Ferko
- Dr. Ruth Westheimer
- Stage Door Theatre
- Rabbi Spike Anderson
- Emory University School of Law
- Ad-hoc Productions
- Carole Schemo