Role: Golda Meir
Project: ''Golda's Balcony,' an Equity staged reading
"Sometimes you expect performers to be able to look at what the role is, hopefully do some homework, and bring something to you that makes them easy to cast," says Robert Spiotto, director of the one-night staged reading of Golda's Balcony in which Barbara Rosenblat was cast as Golda Meir. "Which is exactly what Barbara did. What I thought was going to be a difficult casting job, Barbara made very easy. She came in and she was our Golda, and that was it." Playing the immigrant who became prime minister of Israel, Rosenblat performed William Gibson's one-woman play at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton, N.Y., Aug. 23.
When she saw the casting notice in Back Stage, Rosenblat was starring as Gertrude Stein in Urban Stages' production of 27 Rue de Fleurus, a role she also found in Back Stage. "I still have the breakdown on my fridge," she says, "with a check mark on it: Got it!"
The Golda's Balcony casting notice asked for a performer with "riveting stage presence" who had "some experience headlining a one- or two-person show." Rosenblat says playing Stein — which required her to be on stage nearly the entire time — encouraged her to give it a shot.
She had never seen or read Gibson's play, so she did her research by watching the New York Public Library's videotape of the Broadway production, which starred the Tony-nominated Tovah Feldshuh, and by reading the script at Barnes & Noble. When it came time for the audition, Rosenblat found she had been practicing the same scene that Spiotto handed her to read cold. "It was very, as we say in Yiddish, bashert," she says, "which means it was meant to be."
But destiny wasn't the only factor. Rosenblat's extensive voiceover experience — for audio books, television series, and commercials — meant she could nimbly portray not only Golda Meir but all the other characters in her life. "She jumps from past to present as she tells her story," Rosenblat explains. "I'm not playing multiple ages, but I am voicing the different characters — like her mother, her father, and her generals — because she has to be everyone. It involves characterizations by one person, except that this one person is not nonexistent, as I am in an audio book, where I'm just laying out the canvas for everyone else. I am being, first and foremost, Golda Meir, and then everybody else."
Neither Rosenblat nor Spiotto wanted an impersonation or caricature of a historical icon, but rather an invocation of the spirit of the woman. "Fifteen or 20 years ago I don't think I would have had the gravitas necessary for the role," Rosenblat says. "I think now I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I have in any decade previously. My career has been fairly well rounded, which has allowed me to have the chutzpah, if you like, to at least try for it."
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