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‘Golda’s Balcony’ a lesson in history that resonates today


Special to the Journal

Bobbie Steinbach in New Rep’s “Golda’s Balcony” Photo: Andrew Brilliant/New Repertory Theatre

Think multi-award winners director Judith Braha and actress Bobbie Steinbach, and you know something sensational is going to occur on stage.
 Braha and Steinbach have worked together eight times in various Boston and area theaters, making theatrical magic. Besides building a solid working relationship together, they’re good friends, who share each other’s philosophy, work ethic, and goals.

Both women have long, prestigious, storied careers. Braha has taught at colleges throughout New England, teaches the MFA Directing program at Boston University, has been a director since 1979 and is a longtime member and director in the Boston theater community.

Steinbach also has directed, she teaches and she coaches high school students for their auditions for college theater programs. She has previously taught at Suffolk and Lesley universities, worked extensively for Shakespeare Company, and is the 2016 Huntington Theatre Company’s Lunt-Fontanne Fellow.

Braha and Steinbach’s latest coup, “Golda’s Balcony,” William Gibson’s one-act, one-woman, 95-minute play which ran at New Repertory Theatre through April 16, carried on their successful tradition. The play focuses on Israel’s first-and-only female prime minister, Golda Meir, her rise to power, and her intense goal to create and maintain a Jewish homeland while trying to keep the small strip of land surrounded on all sides by hostile Arab countries from being annihilated.

“It’s kind of sad, because Israel is stuck with the same situations years later. In terms of the world and the Middle East, things have remained stuck.”

When New Repertory Artistic Director Jim Petosa asked Steinbach to star in “Golda’s Balcony,” she was delighted he chose Braha to direct it.

“We get each other,” said Braha.

“I think we have a lot of synergy. She [Steinbach] asks good questions,” said Braha, and added her “two cents” in how to portray Meir and people with whom Meir conversed. “We feel so comfortable doing that. It cuts through the red tape that gets between actor and director.”
“When a director and actor get together and speak the same language – theatrical – then I think that’s when magic can happen,” added Steinbach. “I think that has happened in a fantastic way with the two of us. It’s fun that we kind of grew up together in the theater here.”
Although Golda Meir was a complicated person, Steinbach delivered a stirring portrayal of her, and adds her own, special interpretation of Meir.

“I think Bobbie has many of the qualities of Golda Meir as a person – that strength, wit, no-nonsense approach to life, a strong sense of personal opinion, and big heart linked to Golda. Having Bobbie portray her made it a natural fit for us,” said Braha.
“There’s a lot of information people get from that play,” Steinbach added. “Historically, she’s [Meir] well known and was beloved here. You couldn’t get into her appearances here in the US.”

Braha said, “We both felt strongly that the play says something about making decisions that guide the course of history – that’s not happening in the US. Steinbach added, “It’s a gift when you have a role that’s like that, where you can embody somebody who was so powerful, so idealistic, and so wanted to create a safe haven and who also, on the other end of it, had a dark side, where she wasn’t able to give both to the state and her family – her husband for instance. To have that kind of gift of a role is a very special thing.

“I have a scene partner – the audience. Nobody’s on stage with me except l have these people I’m talking about. I partner with the audience – I can hear them and feel the energy,” she said.

She added doing a dramatic and moving role that has humor is special to her. “Golda was multi-faceted – very funny- very witty – dry wit. Without the humor, it would be difficult to sit through because it’s so dark. She loved men and relationships with men, and men liked her.”

“We spent a lot of time how she would personify them,” said Braha. “It was Bobbie’s very particular sense of Golda’s essence. that drives what she’s doing on stage. We felt Bobbie had so many Golda-like elements in her, we wanted her to do HER Golda,”

“Golda was an amazing woman, sort of a portrait in contrast – blunt yet full of feeling,” Braha said. “She had a way of boiling things down in complicated circumstances. She was a woman dealing with very aggressive men and managed to hold her own way.

“She wasn’t a feminist. she was very much her own person when it wasn’t common or fashionable… She was a gutsy person. There’s a lot to admire there, but she also struggled a lot.”

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