Humor and Grit

April 20, 2022
Natalie Koking

Director Stephen Nachamie shares his take on Becoming Dr. Ruth and the indomitable woman at the center of the story. 


What had you known about Dr. Ruth Westheimer prior to reading this script? What revealing details of her life did you learn after reading?

I had met Dr. Ruth as a child. My grandfather had a house on Lake Oscawana (where she lived with her husband and children). My cousin cut her grass. She was a family friend of my uncle and my aunt as well. I met her when I was probably around 8 or so. I remember the energy and the giggle.

When my dad was driving our family back to New York City, this voice and giggle that sounded familiar would come over the radio — I knew the laugh. He would change the station (we were kids). I knew a few things that she talks about in the show. When my sister was a teenager and had a friend stay over, they’d stay up and sneak a peek at her television show. I would see her at my cousin's bar mitzvah or now and again at a wedding or event. I also remember Mary Gross playing her on Saturday Night Live.

So, in short, I knew very little about her time in Israel and her life and as a cheery grandmother type — and as a world-renowned sex therapist. When asked to direct the show a few years back, I jumped at the chance. She was very supportive and came to that production a few times (as did playwright Mark St. Germain).

What unique characteristics/words would you use to describe Dr. Ruth?

Dr. Ruth is persistent, vivacious, a force of nature, personable, disarming, charming, extremely smart. She sticks by her morals and beliefs and wants people to be educated about sex to make responsible choices as well as enjoy it to the fullest.

Dr. Ruth has provided a wealth of knowledge and wisdom about relationships throughout her career. What can audiences glean from hearing the story of her life?

Family is of utmost importance to Dr. Ruth. She cherishes her family. When something appears to be a limitation in life, she sees it as a challenge, not an obstacle. Say “yes” to opportunities as that is where your life “will happen.”

Becoming Dr. Ruth, presented by the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, runs through May 15 at the Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre.