“A singular moment in Washington theater unlikely to occur again!” Golda’s Balcony Landmark Performance as Theater J Welcomes Tovah Feldshuh for her DC Premiere

Great features this week in The Washington Post and from this week’s WJW Arts feature…Washington Jewish Week

Becoming Golda

April 9, 2014
Glamorous Tovah Feldshuh reprises her role as Israel’s only woman prime minister
By Lisa Traiger
Play_begins
Tonight award-winning Broadway actress Tovah Feldshuh reprises what she calls the role of a lifetime, playing Meir in Golda’s Balcony, this time for a fortnight at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Theater J.
Read the full article here.
key excerpt:
 
….”Why revisit Meir’s life today?  “It’s simply a great piece that works.” Tovah Feldshuh noted.  But she also pointed out that Theater J artistic director Ari Roth also wanted it as part of the company’s “Voices of a Changing Middle East” programming. As a counterpoint to the controversial recently closed Israeli play The Admission, which garnered bands of protestors – and protesters – about the after effects of a fictionalized Jewish-Arab battle during the 1948 war, Golda’s Balcony feels as pro or proto-Zionistic as The Admission was considered destructive to the historic image of the state of Israel.As staunch an Israel supporter as Feldshuh is – and over the years she has traveled across the U.S. raising funds for Jewish federations and Israeli organizations (not unlike missions Meir tackled early in her career) – she’s equally a support of freedom of speech and expression.“One thing [Golda Meir, the character] can do today,” Feldshuh stated, “is advocate for this theater. This theater is a home for free speech and the American way. And Ari Roth has decided to try to present all sides of every argument so he wants this play here at this time.”
* * *

from this week’s WJW Theatre review
Washington Jewish Week

camp-david-071

Peace in the near past

April 9, 2014
‘Camp David’ has its world premiere at Arena Stage.
By Lisa Traiger

Read full review here

key excerpt:

“With this production of Camp David running in Southwest and a run of Golda’s Balcony Theater J in Northwest (see story on page 36), this confluence of two plays about 20th century Israeli leaders and their relentless quest for peace make this as well a singular moment in Washington theater unlikely to occur again.”

* * *
from Friday’s Washington Post

Tovah Feldshuh brings Broadway hit ‘Golda’s Balcony’ to Theater J

By 

 

wk-stage0411-2

Key excerpt:

Feldshuh, 61, has a deep appreciation for Meir, and her understanding of the role has deepened as she has inched ever-so-slightly closer to the age of Meir in “Golda’s Balcony.”

“I had a piano teacher who said, ‘Get it accurate, get it excellent, get it effortless,’ so that’s what you’re hitting with actors who revisit roles,” she says. “The part has had so many hours and months and years in my case to marinate in the body and the soul and the intelligence, in the neshama — that’s the Hebrew word, ‘that which is eternal.’ So it sits there and it’s always with you, it’s a companion for you.”

 

 

34 thoughts on ““A singular moment in Washington theater unlikely to occur again!” Golda’s Balcony Landmark Performance as Theater J Welcomes Tovah Feldshuh for her DC Premiere

  1. In Camp David, Rosalyn Carter used a term to challenge the three world leaders convening there: audacity. This word crossed my mind more than once as I watched Tovah Feldshuh bring life to Golda Meir’s story.

    In the play we saw Golda distraught about whether or not to use nuclear weapons to protect Israel from its neighbors. We hear her go through the options. She could not use the weapons and watch the State of Israel be destroyed under her leadership, or she could utilize the tragic weapons at her disposal and potentially bring about a doomsday scenario.

    Golda sees the destruction this second option will lead to. She recognizes the global significance of this choice, and deeply wrestles with whether or not this is worth the cost. But then she has the audacity to give the order to mobilize the nuclear weapons. Doomsday was at hand, but she had the audacity to stare it down in the face because for her, allowing the destruction of Israel without exhausting all of her options was no option at all.

    This audacity derives from her love of the state of Israel. For Golda, nothing is more important (not her marriage, her children) than this passion. This dedication is what makes her a great prime minister.

    Golda belongs to a short list of leaders who have negotiated the option of nuclear force with the potential loss of life in their own country. Truman made this choice in WWII. Truman did not have a “Kissinger” to send aid and avoid a nuclear attack. The U.S. didn’t have the audacity to send assistance to Israel until they learned their own mutual destruction would be assured if Israel used these weapons, and France and Britain didn’t have the audacity to allow these U.S. planes to fuel in their countries for fear of conflict with the Soviet Union. Golda, however, had the audacity to challenge these countries to act – not by threatening force but by threatening actions that would lead to the very outcomes they were hoping to avoid. Golda didn’t make empty threats and her strong leadership was portrayed well through this play, even if the audience doesn’t agree with her actions.

    • Katie, your posting about Golda’s audacity resonated with my own thoughts about “Golda’s Balcony”. The strength shown by Prime Minister Meir was, in my opinion, vital to her character. Her strength and commitment to the ideal of Zionism took hold when she was faced with the difficult choice of destroying much of the Middle East (and likely causing major issues for Israel by way of radiation) and the very real potential of Israel’s destruction. Your point about Truman in World War II is well-taken- it is because of the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction that the Cold War did not escalate and that the world has not had to live through full-scale Nuclear War. If however, Israel did not have Golda’s strong leadership, commitment to weighing all of the options and Kissinger’s assistance, the political dynamic of the Middle East and the world may have turned out irreparably differently.

    • Katie, I loved the connection you drew between Rosalynn Carter’s use of audacity with the character of Golda Meir as represented in “Golda’s Balcony.” Audacity is easily one of the first words that comes to mind when describing Golda, but not as much when considering the character of Rosalynn as portrayed in Camp David. I actually believe that audacity may have been completely absent from the illustration of Camp David altogether. Though President Carter’s idea to bring together foreign leaders to find peace in the Middle East was bold, the negotiations seemed frivolous and the inability to agree or comprise was typical. Gold Meir, on the other hand, embodied audacity. She took risks, made sacrifices, and put the needs of the country far before her own. In a way it is rather sad, yet “Golda’s Balcony” brought about an overwhelming respect and appreciation for not only the character, but also Golda Meir as a historic individual.

  2. Last week, my response to Camp David included many themes on conflict resolution and just how much sacrifice is necessary in order to achieve meaningful change, especially when trying to create some peace. The three men who were attempting to make a peace agreement: Carter, Sadat and Begin, needed to dig deep into their souls and make emotional as well as diplomatic sacrifices.

    I saw similar themes in Golda’s Balcony. However, the main difference between the shows that I saw was the fact that the lead was a female. In Camp David, the only female character was Rosalynn, Jimmy Carter’s wife. She played an important role in the Camp David peace negotiations, but it was a very indirect role. She was not directly involved in the peace talks, but she was present to support her husband. Throughout the show, she very charmingly would enter the peace negotiations at the opportune moment and say something that would bring the hot-headed men back to reality.

    In Golda’s Balcony, Gold Meir was directly influencing the fate of Israel. She was the prime minister, and therefore she was responsible for making decisions. Although she and Rosalynn both were important, Golda clearly had more power. And her choices were more extreme.

    In her effort to create a state for Jews, Golda needed to make many sacrifices. For one, she sacrificed her marriage, which fell apart when she refused to stay in America. She also sacrificed a great amount of time with her children. As I mentioned during the discussion, I am conflicted on why “successful” “strong” women are often depicted in plays as horrible mothers. I enjoyed the dramaturg from Arena Stage’s response: It is because they are all written by men.

    Most importantly, in many ways, Golda Meir had to sacrifice her belief that she was a good person, using her power in good ways. When trying to decide whether to use a nuclear weapon, Golda was devastated that she got to the point that she would even consider it. She also felt much guilt over the fact that her decisions caused young men to go to war and lose their lives. She sacrificed so much as a leader.

    • I agree with your comment about portrayal of strong female characters often differing from portrayals of strong male characters. I think Rosalynn, however, managed to be just as much of a successful and strong character as Golda.

      Golda’s tactics included threats and a “no-nonsense” attitude. Rosalynn chose a different route to achieve success. She used her intelligence and charm to continue to push the leaders towards each other even when they were opposed to doing so. She didn’t use force as Golda did, but she was just as successful at getting what she wanted.

      If Rosalynn did want to become President rather than First Lady, she would have had to give up a lot of her family time because that’s what the job demands. Golda loved her children. She wanted the best for them. But she also chose to become Prime Minister and that requires individuals to give up much of their personal lives, whether they are females or males.

    • Megan I thought this was a very insightful blog post. I think you make a very good point about the sacrifices that are focused on in Golda’s Balcony because of Golda Meir’s sex. We have seen a number of plays with strong lead characters, and it is interesting to compare the sacrifices that they choose to make based on their gender. I think it’s particularly interesting to compare Golda’s Balcony with Camp David, not only because they are the two most recent plays we have seen, but also because the decisions the protagonists are pretty much exactly the same. The sacrifices that are focused on are, however, different. In Golda’s Balcony she sacrifices time with her children to protect the country, whereas in Camp David the protagonists all end up sacrificing their various plans when they end up thinking about their grandchildren. I think this would be a very interesting topic for you to expand on in your final paper.

    • Megan – I also struggled with why Golda’s sacrifices mostly concerned her personal life and family. During the post-show discussion, I remember a member of the audience suggesting that Golda stopped being a mother when she became Prime Minister of Israel. However, I thought differently. The play showed, to me at least, that Golda never stopped being a mother. She was a mother to her children, and when she became Prime Minister, she was a mother to Israel. This is where I also agree with you regarding Golda’s guilt about the young men sent to war. She cared deeply for the state of Israel and its people, just as a mother cares deeply for her children. So, yes, I do agree that Golda sacrificed her family life while leading Israel. However, I cannot agree with the fact that she stopped being a mother because of this sacrifice. If anything, she became even more of a motherly figure.

    • Megan, I too appreciated that the lead role was a female. After “Camp David,” I had blogged that Rosalynn was my favorite character because she showed how women can play strong, influential roles, but that having a woman as protagonist would be even better. “Golda’s Balcony” provided this, and broke gender stereotypes even further by showing a strong, successful woman leader, as you said. I appreciate that the play showed her sacrificing her marriage and time with her children, because it shows that women have just as much of a right to do this as men do, which is important. However, when men do this, it is viewed as normal, typical, usual, but when women do so, they are often painted as horrible mothers, wives, or people. Confronting this double standard is important, and I hope that our society will come to realize that both men and women have the same choices between career and family. Women should not be penalized or judged more harshly than men for choosing their professional career or vocation.

    • Megan, I wanted to respond to your comment: “I am conflicted on why “successful” “strong” women are often depicted in plays as horrible mothers. I enjoyed the dramaturg from Arena Stage’s response: It is because they are all written by men.” I think the role of women in both Camp David and Golda’s Balcony is very interesting to analyze. Clearly, in Camp David, Rosalynn is more of a loving voice of reason and even a comic relief. However, she has a supportive role. She is not the main decisionmaker, and just comes in when things are about to fall apart.
      Golda has the lead, driving (and only) role in Golda’s Balcony. She has to make decisions that none of us could ever imagine having to make. But as a strong, powerful woman, it seems she can’t have it “all”. Her marriage falls apart, she sees her kids less, and has to sacrifice her happiness in many instances. It unfortunately seems she was forced to decide between satisfying her personal life and serving her country.
      I don’t think the fact that she chose to lead a country she loves makes her a bad mother. It makes her an even more admirable person.. Yes, it meant she couldn’t be there for her kids as much, but she essentially became a mother to thousands as she took their lives and well-beings into her charge and care.

    • Megan, I really like how much attention you pay to the role of women in these plays. It is really important that these conversations are alive because it shows a high level of critical thinking. Most importantly, it challenges the power structures within the Theater world that favor males. I think the role of the First Lady is just as important as the Prime Minister’s role in creating peace in the Middle East. I thought a lot about the question of leadership in “Golda’s Balcony”. The play, I think, makes a point how ‘loss’ is intertwined with leadership. You discuss a lot about Meir’s sacrifices as the Prime Minister of Israel. Yes, the male dominated profession has to do a lot with how a certain group is portrayed in the plays, in this case, how women are depicted as bad mothers. Meir was conflicted with so many issues, but concluded that her only option was to fight back the other countries.

  3. I wasn’t sure what to expect walking in to Golda’s Balcony—I had never seen a one-person show before, and I also knew nothing about Golda Meir.

    I learned more about Israeli history during the course of Golda’s Balcony than I learned in any history class I ever took. It was a perfect counterpoint to not only The Admission, but also Camp David. Despite the fact that Camp David included the stories of both President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, it seemed to me that the show was more critical of the Israeli Prime Minister, which I think was appropriate to the show. But Golda’s Balcony told a very sympathetic, heartfelt story of Israel and its fight for survival. Tovah Feldshuh’s incredible portrayal of the extraordinary Golda Meir gives a heart to Israel.

    Something else that was interesting, though, is that like The Admission, Golda’s Balcony tackles a historical narrative that Israel itself doesn’t discuss: in this case, the Israeli nuclear program. The revelation of what “Golda’s Balcony” really refers to lends a historical gravity to an otherwise personal story and ties Golda’s struggles to the struggles of the whole state.

    It’s an extraordinary story and an extraordinary show. The other element that really made it shine for me was the lighting design—the design stood out particularly due to the fact that the cast was only Golda herself. But the lighting added so much to the mood and context of the show. My favorite moment was at the very end, when the lighting went down to only the flare of the match as Golda lit a cigarette, and the lights went down entirely when she blew it out. It was a slow fade to the end of a story with so much historical gravity, as well as the story of Israel’s only female prime minister.

    I didn’t know who Golda Meir was before seeing this show, but now I have so much admiration for this incredible woman who had to make so many difficult choices. It gave me a much more filled-out knowledge of the history that went into making Israel the state that it is.

    • Chloe – I also was not sure what to expect when going into the show. Like you, I had not heard of Golda Meir before seeing the play. While at my internship on Thursday, I got curious and decided to look up her Wikipedia page. I was surprised at what I saw; my only base knowledge was that she was a former leader of Israel. I was surprised to learn that she had previously lived in the United States. I was pleasantly surprised that the actress incorporated a blatantly Wisconsin accent into her character.

      I agree that this show brought a lot of humanity to the difficult choices Israel has needed to make over the years. Without an adequate historical context, it may be difficult to understand why the middle east cannot simply make peace. The truth is that the history is very complicated and filled with many emotions – many parts of the world have too much to lose, from their perspectives, to be able to achieve peace.

    • Chloe– I really enjoyed what you said about the differences between this one-person play and “Camp David”. I particularly enjoyed the part where you talked about the nuclear disaster that Golda Meir had to handle. I also had a similar experience to yours, since I had done plenty of research on the Camp David Accords before this play, whereas I knew nothing about Golda Meir or her involvement in wartime. Camp David felt more like a dramatic re-telling of the events that had been lectured to me in class. Golda’s Balcony felt more like a behind-the-scenes look at what was going on with this important political figure–both diplomatically and personally–when no one was around her. This was a creative and unique style of theater that made it more interesting than Camp David, in my opinion. They also used this nuclear aspect to make the play so much more suspenseful. The music, the backdrop, the constant pacing, and her tone all made me feel as if a real crisis was emerging. This was not the feel of Camp David, where it seemed like three men were taking their jolly ol’ time figuring out peace between two countries.

  4. I was very impressed with the passion that Actress Tovah Feldshuh exhibited in Golda’s Balcony. She fully embodied the former Prime Minister’s passion for Zionisim and the survival of the State of Israel. Further, the emotions expressed were very real and unlike others in which I have previously interacted with on the topic of the middle east were not overblown.

    However, I was surprised at the casting of the play as a monologue. Throughout the play, I was often wondering what the reactions of Moshe Dayan and Henry Kissinger were to Golda’s fears and anxieties about the progress of the war and the options that she could take to help Israel survive the attack. It would have been interesting to see how the playwright envisioned the secret meeting between the Ambassador to the United States and Henry Kissinger and what they thought led Kissinger and President Nixon to supply Israel with the needed arsenal to win the war using conventional weapons.

    Next, I was captivated by the wording on the “Temple Weapons” of “Never Again” in Hebrew. The symbolism to the Holocaust was very real as that is the phrase used by those all over the world who condemn the Nazis actions that intended to exterminate the Jewish People. This wording encapsulated Prime Minister Meir’s passion for zionisim as she vowed that never again would any nation be able to exterminate the Jews; going as far as to load nuclear weapons that would destroy their Arab neighbors in order to ensure Israel’s survival.

    Finally, I was glad that I had the opportunity to see “Golda’s Balcony” and “Camp David”. However, it would have been more helpful from a standpoint of understanding the history to see Camp David after Golda’s Balcony. the Yom Kippur War and the actions gtaken by Meir, Dayan and Kissinger in many ways showed how dangerous the Middle East Conflict had become with Nuclear War a very real option. As a result, the Americans felt that for the sake of the world it was vital that peace negotiations take place. However, being able to see and fully fathom the real potential of Nuclear war as shown in Golda’s Balcony would have aided my understanding of Camp David and the necessity of Sadat and Begin making the difficult choices required to reach a peace agreement between their nations of Egypt and Israel with the signing of the Camp David Accords.

  5. I thought Tovah Feldshuh was very fitting for the role of Golda Meir. She did an incredible job at bringing the character of Golda’s Balcony to life. It was a great privilege to be in such an intimate setting with a very accomplished individual.

    In Golda’s Balcony, we learn more about the conflicts around the Middle East, specifically the choices around using massive weapons to attack other countries. This isn’t a problem of which country started first or which country had the better weapons, it is a question of human dignity. It’s made clear that the people of Israel are simply hated for their identity. We are told about the young little children that die. Ultimately, Prime Minister takes action because it seems like that is the only option that her people.

    I really enjoyed the structure of the play. Coming into the play I didn’t know what to expect from a one person show. I thought I would be disappointed by not being able to see more than one person perform. One of my biggest concerns was me being bored after thirty minutes of the play, since we were informed there wouldn’t be an intermission. My energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity were all active throughout the entire play.

    “Golda’s Balcony” was by far one of my favorite plays of the semester. I really enjoyed all of the knowledge that it imparted to the audience. I knew Israel had a woman Prime Minister in their history, but didn’t know about all of the historical details regarding the conflicts in the Middle East. I think the simple structure and the fact that there weren’t as many sets was crucial. It allowed me to really focus on the meaning of the play, the conflict, and the thoughts of such an important leader.

    For me, I’m still left with wanting to learn not just only about the elites in power like Prime Minister Meir. Although, I do believe learning the legacy of Prime Minister Meir is extremely important. I wanted to learn about all of the community involvement that was going on at the ground level. There must have been groups pressuing the Prime Minister Meir during these difficult moments. Or, I may be completely wrong. Nonetheless, this play sparked my interest in learning more about this particular time in history in the Middle East.

    Lastly, this play made me further appreciate the contributions of women in their communities. It is unfortunate that these stories are often left untold to younger people. The play made me want to search for all of those untold stories in my own history, so that I can pass it down to future generations.

  6. Golda’s Balcony was a very interesting play. I was apprehensive about a one woman show going into it, and I felt mostly proven wrong in my reservations. Tovah Feldshuh did a fantastic job in her role as Golda. I can see why she was nominated for a Tony Award a decade ago. I don’t think it is possible to understate the achievement of being a part of the longest running one-woman show on Broadway. She was completely convincing in her role as Prime Minister Meir. Her accents sounded great, and her emotion was palpable. I loved the way she brought the PM to life – a strong, independent woman. This is the kind of political role model that should be looked up to for young girls. She was faced with some incredibly difficult decisions and managed to be a strong enough leader to avert crisis.

    My one issue with the play was it dragged a little bit at the beginning. The early life information was important for the emotional payoff at the end of the play, but I think cutting ten or fifteen minutes off would have made it a bit more digestible. I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one, but I felt myself squirming a bit in my seat during the first forty minutes – engaged but not completely captivated. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it until the last twenty minutes.

    I have one question: was this play reparation to the JCC board for choosing to run The Admission? While I enjoyed the historical context, and felt wrapped in the emotion of the nuclear bomb payoff at the end, it had an undoubtedly pro-Israel slant. It was the Arabs, not the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Syrians, etc. Of course, this is a play about the Israeli PM, so such an angle is to be expected. This is more of a wondering paragraph than anything.

    These notes aside, I think this was a solid play. The outcome rested entirely on the shoulder of Ms. Feldshuh’s shoulders, and she was able to deliver.

    • Garrett, I think it is interesting that you suggest cutting 10-15 minutes of the opening bit because I actually think those moments were my favorite. In explaining her early life, we were able to better understand her motives and behaviors as Prime Minister. I loved the little anecdotes about her childhood in Milwaukee, her experiences in Colorado and how she fell in love with Morris Meyerson. Learning about these experiences humanized her as a world leader. Yes, Golda was strong, determined and passionate. But she was also compassionate and not your average, “let’s-drop-nuclear-bombs” leader. I’m not sure “Golda’s Balcony” would of had the same powerful affect on the audience without these little side-stories and moments into her personal life.

  7. While I definitely think Golda’s Balcony is well-written, what really brought the show to life for me was Tovah Feldshuh’s performance as Golda Meir. I’m willing to bet most people felt that way, since in a one-woman show the lead performer will pretty much make or break the show (I assume). I thought the decision to write the play as a one-woman show was very interesting. While Feldshuh may have been the only person on the stage, there were many different characters that appeared throughout the play, as she told the story of Meir’s life and her interactions with the people around her. I would not have thought to write this play like this, and I understand why William Gibson’s initial version had seventeen actors. Feldshuh is constantly moving between characters, quoting different political figures and family members who Golda interacted with.

    While it seems weird that there would only be one actor in the play if there are so many characters, I actually think it sends a pretty powerful message. Golda may be talking with all these people throughout the play, but she is never really with them. She is constantly interacting with them, but from beginning to end she is really alone. I don’t know enough about her life and the history of Israel to say that Golda and Israel felt isolated and surrounded during the 1970’s, but if they did feel this way, then Gibson is able to convey that feeling by only ever putting one person on the stage. I think this is a pretty incredible way to show us Israel in the 1970’s rather than tell us. While having Feldshuh be the only voice in the theater (barring a cellphone call) is great way to engage the audience, it is perhaps even better at creating a powerful play.

    • Joe, you raise an interesting point about Golda being alone. This play highlights that even though there were many people in the cabinet meeting about Dimona and many people throughout Golda’s life that influenced her, there is always a part of a leader that is alone. Regardless of the advice she gets from all of her advisors, when it comes down to making decisions, particularly ones with nuclear consequences, the person at the top is responsible. This powerful narrative device that emphasizes aloneness matches both Golda’s mood concerning her relationship with her husband and Israel’s feeling of aloneness against Egypt in 1973. Interestingly however, this device prevents the audience from seeing other perspectives of the events that could historically verify this aloneness.

    • Some of the most powerful stories that we remember are not from extravagant performances or from high-budget Hollywood films, but from word of mouth. Though “Golda’s Balcony” is told through the voice of one woman, so many characters are involved in Meir’s story. Like you, Joe, it was interesting to watch the play knowing that the monologue was initially created for a seventeen-member cast. I could also see why the playwright would have initially written the play for more actors, but the final production and Feldshuh’s performance were incredible.

      At the same time, the play depends heavily—perhaps a little too heavily—on the role of the actress. The most exposure I have had to one-man or one-woman performances are stand up comedies, which do not require the audience to have too much familiarity with the topic. The monologue, quite specific in its details, were a little more difficult to stay engaged.

  8. Golda’s Balcony was my first experience with a one-person show. I was nervous going in to it. I figured I would not enjoy the play for several reasons. I did not know anything about Golda Meir. I did not understand the structure of a one-person show. It was all too unknown to me. However, at the end of the play, I was blown away. Tovah Feldshuh portrayed Golda Meir, in my opinion, effortlessly.

    As I previously mentioned, I did not know anything about Golda Meir before the show. So, for a while, I was a bit lost. However, I came to realize who she was and what she struggled with as Israel’s only woman prime minister. She was a strong character and I appreciated how Tovah Feldshuh portrayed this. During the play, one thing that struck me was the use of fire and Golda smoking. Starting the performance in the dark only seeing Golda light a cigarette was solemn, yet captivating. Having Golda blow out a match at the end of the performance replicated the same effect. It was just as powerful and moving as the first scene.

    I left this performance, obviously impressed, but with a new view on the conflict in the Middle East. I realized that Camp David showed more of President Sadat’s personal side of the story, as well as his people’s. Golda’s Balcony focused more on the Israeli view of the story. One of the issues debated by Golda was the repercussion of implementing nuclear force. You could tell she was a passionate and caring individual through her internal struggle portrayed in the play. It raised the question, at least in my mind, if other world leaders’, since the dawn of nuclear weapons, also weighed the pros and cons of implementation.

    Golda’s Balcony contributes important dialogue concerning the conflict in the Middle East, but also concerning women. I would attend another performance to fully comprehend Golda’s story; and in the larger picture, the story of Israel.

    • I agreed with you that the use of smoking and fire was a fascinating element of the show. The aesthetic that it created really added to the atmospheric element and, like you say, had a very cool effect on the lighting and helped to end the show in a very satisfying way. I’m also interested by the debate that she has with herself about the use of nuclear weapons. It’s interesting to me that when we study the use or near use of nuclear force, very little of the conversation concerns the decision-making process on a more personal level. Obviously, we discuss international decision making in a realist paradigm, but it seems to me that there’s no way any of these conversations could have been devoid of the human element. I think there’s a tendency to dehumanize political leaders into either dispassionate or crazy caricatures, so I also appreciate the human element presented here, and the questions it opens up in regards to other decisions in military history.

    • One person shows are interesting pieces of art to see. The overall success of the show is heavily dependent on the acting skills of the actor. I also was a bit unfamiliar with the history behind the figure Golda Meir. I felt that it was great to see a woman playing the lead role in a play we watched. Not only was she the lead, she played Israel’s only woman Prime Minister. Seeing a woman of power portrayed in a performance was new compared to the other plays we viewed, and I would assume that it made the show more refreshing. I found your comments about Golda smoking cigarettes and blowing out the match at the end to be interesting. I wouldn’t view those two tasks as particularly special, but it seemed to have a dramatic and captivating effect on the audience.

      With each play we have watched thus far, I have learned something new about the Middle East conflict. Each play has had a different story to tell; which was made clear through the acting and the topics that were selected to discuss. Golda’s Balcony added a unique perspective to the Middle East conflict, since it shared information from the Israeli point of view. In addition I do wonder how much power and influence Golda Meir had during this time period; was it enough to decide to use nuclear weapons? That doesn’t sound like the duties of a Prime Minister, but things vary across cultures and countries. I enjoy each play that has decided to tell a story within a story because it allows for the audience to see the different pressures that the characters face and it always makes me go home and research these battles, or individuals that I knew nothing about prior to the show.

  9. Wow, what a show. And what a truly wonderful story.

    I was blown away by the performance of Tovah Feldshuh in Golda’s Balcony. I had never seen a one-person-show before and was a bit skeptical of how Gold’s Balcony would play out. But, wow. It was spectacular and a great way to end our theater-going semester.

    Like Camp David, the show presented such a serious topic in both a smart and humorous way. Golda’s character was compassionate, witty, and just so loveable. Above all, she was strong-minded and committed to the future of Israel. In the post-show discussion, there was a debate between several members of the audience as to whether Golda had to give up being a mother and wife in order to defend Israel. I do not believe that she had to compromise her family for her career. As one audience member noted: Golda was a great mother. But really, not only was she a great mother to her own children, but to the children of Israel. Golda was ultimately the true mother of Israel. After seeing Camp David last week, it was refreshing to see such a powerful female lead rather than three male lead characters.

    Ofcourse, a major theme within this production was peace. But what really resonated with me, was Tovah Feldshuh’s last few lines to the audience. Not performing as Golda, but merely just herself. She said that she told her children she had lived through major events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the civil rights movement, that she would live to see peace in the Middle East. After 2,000 years, one would hope that peace would be able to come to the Middle East.

  10. “Golda’s Balcony,” told us a story about an incredible woman who had to make many difficult decisions in both her personal and professional life. A focal point of the play is her important decision about whether to use nuclear weapons to protect Israel.

    It is interesting to compare her motivations for her decision to those of Egyptian President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin in “Camp David.” In the discussions at Camp David, both leaders argue for peace with their own specific demands that they want fulfilled, as they want to do what is best for their own people. However, these demands are conflicting. In the end, what brings them together is their love for their family, their grandchildren.

    For Golda, she is less motivated by her family, and more driven by her love for Israel. She puts the nation’s interests above all, even at her own expense. The role she plays in deciding the fate of Israel takes a toll on her because of the internal battle she has about either feeling like she let Israel get destroyed or potentially destroying other nations and creating another world war. She feels guilty about the potential consequences of her actions, which is very difficult for her.

    So, she is strong enough to put herself in this position and to deal with the consequences, which sends a very empowering message for women. Further, the story is autobiographical in that we see parts of her past that illuminate the struggle in finding balance between her family life and career passions. By focusing on her career, she follows her passion to enact change for Israel. This shows that career goals are just as attainable for women as for men, and that women have the same option to choose between family and work that men do.

    “Golda’s Balcony” presents this idea all while showing the difficulties that leaders face when making decisions that affect their countries and others greatly. In this way, it was a perfect play to follow “Camp David,” as it gave us another lens to see how foreign relations are not just cold and calculated, but in fact are affected by the human thoughts and emotions of each leader.

    • After reading everyone’s blogs, I realized the theme of comparing Golda’s Balcony to Camp David. I valued your ability to differentiate the two plays. I wonder if these comparisons stem from the order in which we viewed the performances or are they really that closely aligned. From Camp David I made the assumption that there was only one Prime Minister of Israel although they never made that part clear. In Camp David, love of country and family are the two strongest elements that force these leaders to compromise. In Golda’s Balcony it seems to be more of a focus on the love of country. Golda clearly places the best interest of her nation first and that can be shown through her dialogue throughout the play. It would have been interesting to know why this play was decided to be a one person act. Would it have been stronger if there was a larger cast?

      Throughout the play, Golda was tasked with deciding whether or not to use nuclear forces. She held the protection of her nation as a priority, but while protecting it she could also cause harm on other nations. I wonder how close to reality this play actually is; was Israel strongly contemplating starting another World War? When I viewed Golda’s character I didn’t see her as a woman first, even though that is what society tries to make you do. I saw Gloria as a leader with very important decisions to make, and her gender was seen as a secondary thing. I don’t think because she is a woman, that her job was made any more difficult, it is the nature of the Prime Minister. Lastly, I enjoyed your discussion on the complexities of foreign relations. A nation’s domestic policies can have foreign relations implications and one way this can happen was displayed through Golda’s Balcony.

  11. Golda’s Balcony provides an outstanding exploration of Prime Minister Meir’s thought process and history, but the audience should not rely solely on it when determining the quality of her job while in office or even the events themselves, namely whether Israel was close to using nuclear weapons. The play takes a hard look at Golda Meir, but it seems to be very American in its stance and target audience. Golda Meir is viewed very differently in the United States than in Israel. Instead of a historical tool, Golda’s Balcony offers the audience an in depth study of Golda Meir and leadership.

    Compared to the literature on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Camp David and Golda’s Balcony provide a unique focus on the leaders involved rather than the process. The playwrights’ decisions to limit considerably the number of characters in both of these plays direct the audience to focus on the relationships between the characters that are actually in the plays. While limiting the potential for historical analysis on the process, this tactic maximizes the plays’ abilities to analyze their small number of characters. In Camp David, this manifests itself when one of the leaders recognizes the political pressure that unseen members of the Egyptian and Israeli delegations exert on their leaders. The audience does not see this pressure on the stage and therefore must take it at face value. Instead, the play focuses on how the three leaders deal with this pressure. Likewise, the audience only has limited exposure to other characters through Golda acting out her previous conversations (and even then this comes purely from her perspective of the conversation). These conversations and the relationships that Golda discusses are important, but the play is about Golda. The play is successful because of its almost singular focus on this one leader by only having one actor. Both of these plays offer excellent insight into the leaders that they discuss and what they lack in historical explanation they make up with a powerful exploration of what constitutes leadership.

  12. “Camp David” and “Golda’s Balcony” have illustrated just how hard it is lead and guide a country through conflicts and strife. I have a lot of respect for Golda Meir and all three leaders in “Camp David”. In addition to being informative about the leaders, both these plays have been incredible history lessons. The portrayals of history and politics through art have been very effective in facilitating my learning and overall awareness of the world.
    Specifically in “Golda’s Balcony”, it seemed like a history lesson, but on a more personal level, through the eyes of a leader who clearly had a passion for Israel, to the point that she sacrificed very intimate parts of her life, including her marriage and time with her children, so that she could run the country. She commonly referred to Israel as a home and did her best to ensure its continuation and success. She emphasized that so many people called this place home and thus it was even more imperative to safeguard it. In one line in the play, she says, “Here from my balcony—this balcony first, then the other—I had a view of the Mediterranean and the ships arriving with our exiles, the refugees and survivors, coming home. From where? Europe of course, and Africa, and Arabia—even China.” Israel is viewed as a safe place for those who have endured unimaginable evil and harm against them. This made it even more necessary to Golda that Israel survives: “What choice, do I even think of letting Israel die?—no, I’m physically sick, can’t sleep, can’t eat, have nothing in my stomach but am vomiting all day, dry retching and retching.” She seemed almost like a supreme mother. She is not perfect, not a sweet, affectionate, and doting mother, but she sacrifices so much of herself for the survival and well-being of Israel. She had to make hard choices that in the end will lead to people dying, go through nights without sleep, live with burdens weighing her down all the time, and give up things close to her. She does it for the love of the country and its people. That is very admirable.

  13. I also had never seen a one-person show before last Thursday. I was surprised to find that this one tackled such serious subject matter: the impersonations and dashing back and forth that such a thing requires seemed to lend itself to a more comedic role. And I think that Golda’s Balcony had enormous potential to flop epically, lose itself in its form and fail to tell a story that resonated. (Which, apparently, has happened in the past; this show is an adaptation of a seventeen-character production from the seventies that .)

    But it didn’t flop. Sure, there were comedic moments, but the play itself was a tremendous thing. Having read the script, I conclude that it is a really well-written piece, but I must attribute the success of the show to Tovah Feldshuh. Her skill with accents, body language, facial expression – I don’t know how many characters she had to portray, but it was from my perspective flawless. And in the meantime, her portrayal of Golda was the common thread that wove the whole thing together – I got the sense that, after ten years, Ms. Feldshuh understood Golda. Understood what the character would say, and was truly reacting rather than acting. (This was clearly demonstrated when a cell phone went off in the audience. Rather than ignoring it, Ms. Feldshuh acknowledged it by cracking a joke, and then immediately launched into an incredibly dramatic monologue. The ability to channel Golda’s dry humor in an unscripted moment was impeccable.) In this way, I got a glimpse into the very fine lines that Golda walked – war and peace, family and career, protection and reconciliation and homecoming, her country’s welfare and her own sense of right and wrong – and I understood, if I could not feel, her agony in choosing between all of these.

    In my midterm, I expressed the desire to try to appreciate plays on a more practical level – their casts, their sets, their lighting, their music. I think that I achieved that with this show, although I can’t be sure if that’s due to my own efforts as a playgoer or the enormously high quality of this production.

  14. The first thing I would like to address is Tovah Feldshuh’s incredible acting. The strength of her character, Golda Meir, reminded me of Mother Courage from “Mother Courage and Her Children,” in that each woman is both brutal and fierce, placing her business or political career above everything, even family. But while Kathleen Turner was heralded as “an actress of epic force,” I remember feeling very underwhelmed by her performance that evening. Her speech was monotonous and her acting failed to generate very much emotion from me, even at her saddest moments. Feldshuh, who also has a very low voice, did the very opposite. While she was funny and engaging, her character was easy to sympathize with. Her portrayals of the other characters (who we never see) in her story are very believable, and I cannot think of many actresses that would be able to deliver a one-woman performance as successfully as Feldshuh did.

    Like Megan, I appreciated learning about Meir, a strong female figure in Israeli history. The prime ministers with whom I was most familiar and of whom I had heard most often were Ben-Gurion, Sharon, Begin, Olmert, and Netanyahu—I hadn’t even realized that Israel had a female prime minister.

    I must be honest, however—as a visual learner rather than an auditory, I have trouble engaging myself in monologues, just as I have trouble paying attention to audio books. While Feldshuh’s performance was spectacular, it wasn’t until I went home and read the script of “Golda’s Balcony” that Mr. Roth sent to us that I was able to finally grasp what was going on throughout the play. I would highly recommend Golda’s Balcony to anyone who asked, but personally, I am hesitant in continuing to attend one-man or one-woman shows in the future, for fear of losing track of timeline of the story that is being told.

    • Michelle, I agree with your feelings about monologues. I like visuals as well, and it is difficult to pay attention to strictly dialogue. There was not a lot of action on-stage, which made the monologue the absolute primary focus. The only set-pieces were a table and some chairs, and a few cigarettes.

      That aside, I also agree with your assessement of the acting. It was such a powerhouse job of acting. The majority of people would be unable to pull off a performance of this magnitude. A lot of actors are able to raise the level of their acting when they have other great peformers surrounding them. It is exceedingly rare to find someone who is capable of a sustained level of performing on their own.

      To conclude: fantastic acting, but make sure you are comfortable listening to someone talk for 90 minutes straight.

  15. I was anxious about attending a one-actress performance prior to attending the performance of Golda’s Balcony, but was pleasantly surprised. Tovah Feldshud illustrated former prime minister Golda Meir’s journey in an engaging, thought-provoking and entertaining monologue. The performance jumped between different time frames and periods of her life in a way that was refreshing and invited, and not at all distracting. The detail that Tovah Feldshud put into the character (or characters, really) was incredibly impressive – even her movements, body language, voice and pitch aged or re-engergized depending on which year Golda was detailing. Her dialogue was genuine, quick and seamless, and the audience was able to accurately envision almost everything scene or interaction she described. The smallest details allowed us to transcend into a different time or place, a slight shift in the lighting, faint background noise, or a single prop could help illustrate an entirely new idea.

    The post-performance talk back added another layer of interest as we began comparing Golda, her life and her experiences to Rosalynn Carter, as portrayed in Camp David. In my blog post responding to Camp David, I discussed some of my frustrations with Rosalynn’s portrayal and far prefer a strong, female lead such as Golda. The discussion arose around whether motherhood and power or influence are able to seamlessly coincidence, as it is rarely portrayed as such. Though some argued that Golda was both a good leader and good mother, I disagree. I think there will always be a degree of sacrifice when holding such an influential, acclaimed position, but that it is not always a negative thing. Golda once quoted her daughter asking, “Does Israel always come first?” I do not believe Golda was a terrible mother by any means, but she sacrificed far more than Rosalynn Carter by being the prime minister, and not the prime minister’s wife. She probably missed a few events or maybe even birthdays, but in exchange, she provided her daughter’s with an outstanding example of female leadership, perseverance and audacity.

  16. Last week, we got the opportunity to see “Golda’s Balcony”, a solo act performed by Tovah Feldshuh. I’m not quite sure how I felt about the play itself, but I have no doubts about how incredible the acting was. Feldshuh—in a remarkable showing of talent, endurance, and presence—singlehandedly carried the show about Isreal’s “Iron Lady”. This nickname was first ascribed to Meir, but is more famous for being the nickname of Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister.

    Feldshuh’s performance (and a friend) inspired me to watch the actual movie “Iron Lady” about Thatcher’s life to see if I could find any similarities with the two women leaders. As it turned out, both of their storylines and personal traits were similar in several regards. For one, they both dealt with severe crises as political figures. Meir had to navigate through the political and military confusion and misinformation of the Yom Kippur War, while Thatcher worked heavily to fight back against the uprising of socialism and communism. Needless to say, in a world where women leaders are graded on a different scale than men, these women faced enormous adversity and responded with unyielding authority.

    The quality of acting is another thing that these two performances have in common. Not only do Toyah Feldshuh and Meryl Streep own the stage/screen, they also make a point of portraying the various ways in which women must show strength in leadership positions. Feldshuh presents this in the commanding tone of her voice and her monologues which reveal her vast knowledge of the situation. Streep, while also utilizing an authoritative voice, projects her might with her firm posture and her strong expressions and mannerisms. Both of these actresses (and historical characters) provide an in-depth view of the personas that women leaders must take on if they are to be successful and respected in their decision-making positions.

  17. I am extremely happy that I still went to view this play although I wasn’t able to watch Golda’s Balcony with the rest of the class. This performance was powerful and had an interesting storyline. I didn’t see Golda’s Balcony when it came out years ago, so this was my first time hearing about some of the events that took place in the play. I enjoyed that Golda was able to share information on how she grew up as well as the history of her nation. Even though, it was a one-woman show, Golda did a great job transitioning from different characters and time periods. I didn’t know what to expect of this one-woman show, but this play exceeded my expectations in every way. There was a clear difference in each character she played; especially the many stages of her life, her movements and mannerisms often changed which was brilliant.

    After reading the comments of my classmates, I thought that the majority of the play would be about Golda’s decision of whether or not to use nuclear forces. That was one of the climatic parts of the show, but there were several other themes that stood out. Foreshadowing played a crucial role in this performance. Golda often made references to plot developments that took place later in the show. The foreshadowing technique was useful; she made sure to give discrete details without reviling the most important parts. This performance left me captivated and forced me to research Golda’s character in depth. The lighting and sound effects were a great touch to add to the show. The lighting added to the drama and the sound effects, especially the constant music being played added humor to the show.
    Today, it’s no secret that Israel has nuclear arms, but this play provided necessary background information. I enjoy going see performances that teach me along the way and many plays this semester have done that.

    It was refreshing to see a play where the female character was in a position of power. Golda’s Balcony could have easily been one of the necessary plays in our groups Femifest14. Golda eventually became the Prime Minister of Israel and throughout her career she did a lot to the cause of creating a Jewish state and protecting it. There were several parts of the performance where Golda made some powerful comments. She mentioned that there would not be peace until Arab’s love their children more than they hate Jews. This comment could be controversial to some people, but I think that it was a powerful message. The balance between love and hate has been juxtaposed through many arts this semester, including Camp David.

    Golda’s Balcony illustrated the involvement of the United States in these conflicts. I wonder how accurate the interpretation of the American response was in the play. The threat of a nuclear war is what brought the United States to the aid of Israel. Golda was a strong figure; she was willing to do what was necessary, including sending children to war. She expressed to the United States toward the beginning of the play; that they were going to war with stones if didn’t giver Israel guns because at this point war was inevitable once the British left. Lastly, I enjoyed the way the play explained the title. It made slight references to a balcony’s throughout the play but it wasn’t until the end that you know what Golda’s Balcony was referring to. I would like to say great job by the actor, Theatre J for welcoming Golda’s Balcony into their theatre, and I would recommend this show to others.

Comments are closed.