“Golda’s Balcony,” the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history, is coming to New Orleans this month.
The story of Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, the show opens during her most challenging time — the Yom Kippur War, when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel in 1973 while she was prime minister.
The show then diverges to Meir’s impoverished beginnings in Russia, childhood in Milwaukee, her fractured relationship with husband Morris who she insisted follow her to pre-state Palestine. There, she became a national leader.
The play’s title comes from the nickname for an observation area in the Dimona nuclear facility. “Golda’s Balcony” was playwright William Gibson’s second attempt at Meir’s story. Author of “The Miracle Worker,” Gibson wrote “Golda” in 1977 with a much larger cast. It was not a success.
In 2003, the current version debuted and ran for almost 500 performances with Tovah Feldshuh in the title role. In 2006, there was a film version starring Valerie Harper.
“Golda’s Balcony is one of the most beautiful scripts ever written and is a compelling story about an extraordinary woman who, through intelligence and passion, rose to become one of the most important women in the world. It is 90 minutes of history that everyone should see,” said Cassie Steck Worley, executive director of Le Petit Theatre.
Local Historian Howard Hunter described Meir as “the embodiment of the idealism of the West and the Jewish sense of destiny. While it may be fashionable to compare her to other female leaders of the 20th century — Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, Corazon Aquino, and Indira Gandhi — Golda Meir was the only world leader of the 20th century who could lay claim to the encomium ‘Founding Mother.’ She was one of a small group of visionaries who turned Israel from an idea to a nation. And, without her drive and commitment, Israel could have remained a historical footnote from 3,000 years ago.”
Directed by New Orleans native Carl Walker, this production stars local talent Clare Moncrief (above left), a 25-year veteran of New Orleans theater who was last seen in Le Petit Theatre’s July production of “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” That show marked the theater’s reopening after being dark for three years.
Founded in 1916, the theater faced financial difficulties in 2009. In 2011, the Dickie Brennan restaurant group purchased 60 percent of the building and opened Tableau in part of the building. With the building’s future secured, the theater announced its first season under the new arrangement last spring.
The theater teams with local non-profits for their productions, and the run of “Golda’s Balcony” will raise funds for Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans. The agency is “dedicated to preserving, strengthening and enhancing the well-being and self-sufficiency of individuals and families at every stage of life.”
On Jan. 26, there will be a special performance that benefits the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana. The performance is in memory of Pauline and Leonard Prelutsky and is being underwritten by the Leonard E. Prelutsky Memorial Donor Advised Fund at JEF. All proceeds will go to JEF, and after the performance there will be a Skype interview with Dave Fishelson, who produced the original Broadway run.
Ticket prices for the JEF benefit were not announced as of press time.
The Baton Rouge chapter of Hadassah is doing a road trip to see the matinee on Feb. 2.
The show opens Jan. 24 and closes Feb. 8 with 8 p.m. performances on Fridays and Saturdays, then on Thursdays starting Jan. 30, and on Wednesday Feb. 5. Sunday performances are at 3 p.m., with the JEF event on Jan. 26 and another matinee on Feb. 2. Tickets may be ordered online, or in person between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, or by calling (504) 522-2081.
(Photo courtesy Tracie Morris Schaefer).