Golda Meir, throughout the 80 years of her life, saw herself through so much adversity and challenges, whether it be surviving the deadly pogroms in her native Russia; enduring the immigrant experience in her new hometown of Milwaukee during the turn of the 20th century; taking risks by venturing to live and work in a kibbutz in Palestine during the 1920s, at a time when attacks by neighboring Arab groups were a constant danger; to playing an active role in the creation and survival of the State of Israel during the turbulent post World War II years.
And from all of those challenges culminated in a personal and professional triumph: becoming Israel’s first female Prime Minister in 1969, a post Meir held until she stepped down in 1974.
Golda Meir’s story is filled with strength, determination and an incredible triumph of the human spirit that was needed towards guiding Israel through its tumultuous early years of statehood.
And veteran American actress Tovah Feldshuh brings the story of Golda Meir to life with all of these above mentioned attributes, and so much more, in “Golda’s Balcony”, the one-woman stage show that triumphantly concludes the Segal Centre’s 10th anniversary season, and runs until June 10.
The play begins sometime during the mid-70s, when Meir, in failing health and still chain-smoking cigarettes, sits at the kitchen table in her Israel apartment and looks back in reflection about the crisis that defined her term as Israeli prime minister: the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which daily reports from the front by her generals had nothing but bad news. The Israeli defence forces faced imminent obliteration from the neighboring Arab countries they were fighting against; and in turn, Meir was desperately waiting to hear from U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to find out if President Richard Nixon would send much needed military aid to Israel, which would determine if this young country would survive the crisis, or be wiped off the map after 25 years of existence.
The Yom Kippur War serves as the foundation of the play, as Meir relates to the audience the incidents of her life that brought her to this moment in 1973. From Russia to Milwaukee to Denver to that kibbutz in Palestine (where one of her first jobs was to make matzoh ball soup for her fellow settlers) to her tireless work on behalf of the Jewish Agency during the 1940s in Cyprus, Moscow and the U.S.
Although the audience shares Meir’s triumphs and accomplishments, she also shares with us some of her personal setbacks while working on behalf of the nascent State of Israel, and admits she could have been a better wife and mother (while she attended countless meetings to help raise millions of dollars to purchase weapons for the Israeli army during 1947 and 1948), not to mention the long list of health problems she struggled with and overcame (including a bout with lymphoma).
To put it mildly, Tovah Feldshuh is a dynamo, as she performs the role of Golda Meir with a great deal of passion, energy, humanity, candor and humor. Like a cross between a fierce world leader and a typical Jewish mother, Ms. Feldshuh boundlessly tells the story of Golda Meir as she leaps from one situation to another – whether it giving fundraising speeches across the United States or secretly negotiating with Jordan’s King Abdullah in 1948 about how the two nations can exist together without war – without missing a beat.
In fact, thanks to Ms. Feldshuh’s dynamic performance, it feels like this play should be subtitled “An Intimate Evening with Golda Meir”, as the audience gets to know this person not only as a significant historical figure, but almost like a close friend, whose story about how she played a part in the creation and survival of the State of Israel is almost like our story, too. No wonder “Golda’s Balcony” earned the distinction of being the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history, and that Tova Feldshuh deservedly got herself a Tony Award nomination for best actress for this performance.
So accept an invitation to visit “Golda’s Balcony”, as you get a personal, entertaining and moving story about one of the most remarkable women of the 20th century, and her turbulent role as a nation builder.
For more information about “Golda’s Balcony”, or to purchase tickets, call 514-739-7944, or got to www.segalcentre.org.