by Cathy P. Ross
Jun 7, 2013
10:10 AM
Culture Cat

Becoming Dr. Ruth

Becoming Dr. Ruth

When Debra Jo Rupp (she played Kitty Forman in “That 70s Show”) was approached by Mark St. Germain to play the role of radio sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer in the one-woman show he’d written, her response was: “Oh, you mean the sex woman? I don’t know that I’m your woman.” But when she learned that Westheimer had once been a sniper in the Israeli army, she changed her tune. “Then I had to do her!” she says. Last summer, Dr. Ruth, All the Way had its sold-out premiere in Pittsfield, Mass., with the Barrington Stage Company, and Rupp got rave reviews. Since then, the play, which had run over two hours, has been shortened and retitled Becoming Dr. Ruth for its run this month at TheaterWorks in Hartford.

“I was terrified of this role,” says Rupp. “I was terrified that Dr. Ruth was so well-known, and terrified that she was still alive!” But with some assistance from Westheimer herself, Rupp studied everything she could find about her character, including the way she walked and her unique accent. “Working on the dialect was really hard,” she says. “And if you don’t play it right, everybody knows.” Rupp hopes audiences will walk away with a new appreciation for Westheimer: “She lost her whole family in the Holocaust and doesn’t truly know what happened to them.” But along with the drama, Germain included plenty of humor. “When Ruth is happy, something will just fly out of her mouth and make you die laughing,” she says. “But then you go, ‘Should I be laughing? I don’t know.’”

So is Broadway in Rupp’s future? “I never thought I’d ever play someone like Dr. Ruth in a million years,” she says. “But it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I see this as a big role—and I’m hoping it opens some different doors for me.”                     

Becoming Dr. Ruth
Through July 7 | TheaterWorks | Hartford

Becoming Dr. Ruth

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Curious about Connecticut? So is associate editor Cathy Ross, who enjoys everything our state has to offer, from art galleries and museum exhibitions to fine restaurants and great shops. Explore it all right here with her!

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