Q & A with Miriam Schwartz

Becoming Dr. Ruth marks your third production for MJTC. What attracts you to this theater company?

Every time I receive an email from Barbara or a flier from MJTC, I see the theater's mission statement: "Telling Stories of Our Common Search for Identity." It continues to strike me as one of the elements I love most about my purpose as an actor, and is clearly one of MJTC's top priorities when creating its seasons. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work for a company so aligned with my own personal and artistic values. Each of the productions I have been a part of has been unique in its story-telling, but what remains consistent is the integrity of the work, the generosity of the artists and collaborators, and the intelligence and eagerness of the audience. What's not to love?

How did you prepare for the role of Dr. Ruth?

Aside from memorizing like a mad-woman, I have been watching clips of Dr. Ruth nonstop. She has such unique mannerisms, and such humor-- it's been so fun!

What are some of the challenges in portraying a known personality? 

As she IS such a unique and well-known person, part of my job is to capture those mannerisms, expressions, and gestures, and ground them in the deeper Dr. Ruth. I'm working to capture her essence, her heart, so that it doesn't just feel like mimicry. This play isn't simply Dr. Ruth as the TV/radio personality familiar to many of us, it's Dr. Ruth sharing her incredible life story. The text is so personal, and I feel like I want to honor that by creating a character that is not only recognizable by appearance or by voice, but by spirit.

How do you, as a younger woman, relate to Dr. Ruth's life story?

My age was a serious concern of mine when I was first offered the part. I simply don't have the years of life experience Dr. Ruth has. I found myself dwelling on markers of her age-- her grandchildren, her three marriages, the wisdom she possesses as a result of her personal journey and time on this earth. As I've continued working on the script, though, it has become increasingly clear to me that there are SO many ways I relate to her as a person. Her love for her family, her cultural identity, her desire to give back to the world, her positive outlook. As an actor, I am constantly challenged to portray characters with life experiences outside my own. That's part of the work!

Any favorite lines from this show?

One of my favorites is "Today I belong to two [synagogues]. When one asks where I was last week, I can say I was at the other." Such sharp wit.

Who or what inspires you?

I find inspiration in many things. For this project, I am inspired by my artistic mentors who I look to for support, guidance, and examples of dedication to the craft. I am inspired by the people in my life who take huge risks and undertake enormous challenges with grace and perseverance. It inspires me to do the same. 

What do you love most about the Twin Cities?

I love the vibrancy of the Twin Cities during the summer. The number of festivals and music events and activities to partake in... we certainly don't take our months of warmth for granted. 

What would be your dream role to play?

I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a single dream role. I read a LOT of plays, and frequently find characters I connect with and would love a chance to work on. Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice has been high on my list for years, though.