RoseLynn Katz: Walking Into Golda Meir
By Roberta Binder
It was an amazing experience, sitting in the hall at Congregation Beth Israel, watching Golda Meir come to life through the interpretation titled, For You My Door is Always Open: A Visit with Golda Meir by RoseLynn Katz. She had spent over a year researching, studying and writing the entire one-woman show and presented an excellent portrayal of the Iron Lady of Israel. I was always captivated by Mrs. Meir, who was one of my earliest female power figures; she had served as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister in Israel and became its 4th Prime Minister from 1969-1974.
RoseLynn has enjoyed a lifetime loving the arts, “I hardly ever remember not writing. When I was a child I would write little books of poems and stories, it went with my love of reading. My parents read to us often. I was enchanted by those books. I remember my dad would read to us early Dr. Seuss books like Horton Hatches the Egg. When I started to read myself, one of my favorite childhood books was Mary Poppins. It had quite an effect on me.”
Both of her parents were immigrants from Poland, coming to this country at an early age with their own parents. Both of her parents shared a love of the arts, which they instilled in RoseLynn and her three sisters. “My dad was an opera lover; every Saturday he would listen to broadcasts on the radio from the Metropolitan opera in New York. He would just enjoy it so much; you could see they touched his soul. My mother always had a curious mind, which she also imparted to me. I love research.” Her mother would often take RoseLynn and her sister to the theatre. As an adult she always appreciated the ideals that her parents imparted to her and finds those continue to serve her well.
“We never had much money, but we got our pleasure from the arts, we grew with wealth in life.” They lived in a small house, on a tree lined street. The house was filled with music, laughter and books. Her parents instilled respect, work ethic, family values and a love of arts in their four children… and it stuck with each of the girls.
RoseLynn began her acting career in high school and continued it when she went to Wayne State University, Michigan, where she received a degree in English and met her husband Gene; the two have celebrated over 50 years of marriage and continue to dance through life hand-in-hand. “We remain each other’s greatest blessing.”
While in college she continued to expand her love of theatre, performing in many plays. Upon graduation, marriage lead to family as two sons soon joined to share the couple’s life. RoseLynn was also able to secure her degree in library science from the University of Michigan and had seven of her romance novels published, building a respectable following.
The library science degree served her well with the family’s move to Westchester County, New York, where RoseLynn found the perfect job. “I got a job as a children’s librarian. It was so much fun; I could read stories to kids. What a joy to be earning a living using my stills of acting and reading books to inspire young minds.”
As they settled into life in New York, she also found many wonderful opportunities to perform in community theatre. “Being so close to New York City, I had the opportunity to work with some amazing actors. In fact, many people thought I was a professional.” This is where she first learned about Asheville. “I played the town madam in Look Homeward, Angel, written by Thomas Wolfe. It stuck in my mind when it came time to retire.”
RoseLynn and her husband have been here for nine years, both have really settled into the community and are pleased with their choice for retirement. Immediately the enterprising retiree set out to find her place in local community theatre. Soon she became involved with The Autumn Players group of thespians who perform throughout the community and call 35 Below home base.
It was through her new theatre involvement that she was inspired to write her first one-woman show. “Dorothy Parker immediately came to mind. I loved her short stories. I started to read them when I was about 15. They were wonderful stories. They were witty, clever; she was funny. So, I decided I was going to write about her life. She had lived a long time, and my plan was to play her as an older woman reminiscing. Dorothy Parker was quite a comedian; the play gave me the opportunity to hone my comedic side. She was also a very self-destructive person. In order to deal with the pain of her life, she had a quick wit and that was how she survived.” So that is what she did, creating The Devil Touched My Tongue: The Wit and World of Dorothy Parker. She did numerous well-received performances in various venues in and around Asheville.
“I always enjoyed the plays of William Inge: Picnic; Come Back, Little Sheba. Back in Michigan, I played the young housewife in a community theater production of his Dark at the Top of the Stairs. I was playing the young housewife, a not-Jewish character, who had to reassure her daughter who gets a blind date with a Jewish boy by saying, “I’m sure Jewish people are just like any other people.” In the setting of 1920s Oklahoma, they didn’t know any Jewish people. I remember thinking at the time, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to play a Jewish woman.’ which lead me [all these years later] to turn my thoughts to Golda Meir.”
Although earlier in her life she would have been intimidated by the enormity of her life, RoseLynn now felt she was up to being able to present a strong positive portrayal. “In Golda I found my Jewish woman! With deciding to write my next one-woman play about her life, I needed to dig and find her essence. What I found was a very strong, maternal lion whose goal was protecting her people, to protect them and to save them. In her very early childhood she had witnessed a pogrom (ethnic massacre in her home village in Russia) and never forgot. She knew the prosecution of her heritage. Golda’s armor was her energy and force. The desire to protect.”
RoseLynn once again put on her research and writing hats and delved into research, reading, learning and growing into building the character. She had made the decision to play the older woman reminiscing, inviting everyone in for a bowl of chicken soup and some conversation, forever the loving Jewish mother. Everyone in the audience leaped to their feet, wild with excitement at the end of the performance!
And now she turns her attention back to The Autumn Players as she prepares to direct Come Back, Little Sheba, by William Inge, in the Readers Theater Performances the end of March. The show, starting at 2:30 p.m., will be open to the community with tickets $5.00 at the door at both venues: March 28 & 29 at 35 Below, 35 East Walnut Street, Asheville (AshevilleTheatre.org) and March 30, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Reuter Center, UNC Asheville (OLLIAsheville.com).
RoseLynn Katz is available for booking either of her one-woman productions and is looking for venues interested in hosting her. She can be reached at RoseCarol@charter.net.
Roberta Binder, Facilitating Clarity through Mindful Editing Keeping the Author’s Voice, Always. She can be reached at RobertaEdits.com. Roberta is also a writer and photo-journalist who enjoys all of her writing adventures with WNC Woman – Women Nurturing Change.