Talented Koteles ‘Becomes’ Dr. Ruth
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Talented Koteles ‘Becomes’ Dr. Ruth

After decades of singing, dancing, choreographing, and acting, Eileen Koteles gets rave reviews and continues to reinvent herself.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Eileen Koteles recreated “Becoming Dr. Ruth” in Dunwoody this August, after a popular run in Dalton.
Eileen Koteles recreated “Becoming Dr. Ruth” in Dunwoody this August, after a popular run in Dalton.

Local actress Eileen Koteles, 67, has achieved “triple threat” status, defined in artistic circles as someone skilled in dancing, singing, and acting. A Tampa native, she earned her theatrical arts degree from the University of Florida and has gone on to play characters in productions of “Grease,” “The Sisters Rosensweig,” “Paint Your Wagon,” “Dames at Sea,” “Barefoot in the Park,” and dozens of other plays, and has even choreographed some as well.

Most recently, despite the limits brought on by COVID, Koteles has starred in a one-woman, 90-minute show, “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” at the Stage Door Theatre in Dunwoody. Her portrayal of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the grandmotherly, German-accented sex therapist and author who has appeared at the Atlanta Jewish Book Festival, was highly touted.

Koteles rehearsed virtually in preparation for her Dalton role on weekends.

In “Arts Atlanta,” (Aug. 26) Jim Farmer wrote, “The show is literally all Koteles. Luckily, she is well-equipped to take on the iconic character, having played the role before at the Artistic Civic Theatre in Dalton. Comfort and confidence mark her performance. From a physical standpoint, there is little resemblance between the actress and the real Westheimer, yet Koteles captures Dr. Ruth’s feistiness, warmth and ability to put others at ease. She’s a talented storyteller with sharp comic timing.”

To prepare for the role, Koteles chatted by phone with Dr. Ruth and her daughter Miriam. Koteles said, “I had to concentrate on her accent. I still hear her voice in my head.” Two Atlanta fans who saw the performance raved, “Clearly, Eileen

Koteles took the role as Dr. Ruth by truly BECOMING her in every way. From her sadness and madness when detailing her family’s Holocaust experience to her smile and giggles when recalling her three marriages, she embraced her role. Although we know Dr. Ruth as a fun-loving sex therapist, Eileen showed me that there is much more to this little lady; and her 90+ years have been a whirlwind that I will never forget.”

Koteles originally performed the role in Dalton, Ga. She said, “Considering the commute, I was able to memorize lines and zoom rehearsals from here during the week, and just go up there on weekends. While training, I spoke to Westheimer and found her to be very personable, giving and excited about me doing the role.”

Other unusual roles Eileen recalls are “The Savannah Sipping Society,” a comedy in which she was one of four women who were whimsical, poignant, and did a lot of drinking. A major highlight for her was winning a Best Actress award in 1980 for her starring role in “Veronica’s Room.”

Koteles spent years performing live shows in Tampa to warn children against drugs and violence.

Life and acting has taken Koteles from New York City to Miami and back to Tampa, before coming to Atlanta in 2012. She said, “I wasn’t emotionally cut out for New York. There I was at 5’2”, standing at the Radio City Rockette’s ‘try out’ sign, which required a 5’4” minimum height.”

Raising a family of three boys, now grown, Koteles was involved in her hometown Tampa community by writing shows for 16 years at a children’s theater, where she directed and produced shows with a four-person cast on the prevention of drugs and violence, doing up to four shows a day, 2,000 shows a semester. The Tampa Jewish Federation bought the rights to “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” with parts performed by Eileen at a fundraiser.

What’s next? Eileen is enthusiastic about the future. “I still love theater,” she says, “but I am told that I have a quirky voice and will pursue voice acting jobs locally, and hopefully in film. Also, I just did a ‘table read’ on Zoom for a production of ‘Wellington’ out of Austin, Texas, with Bill Karmovsky, about a Jewish couple who adopts an Indian daughter. I’m also on YouTube with short sketches. Another of my favorite roles is ‘Grandma Leenie’ with my five grandchildren!”

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