Judy Gold, playwright, performer, and star of 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, sashays into a press conference with a white apron over her jeans and a tray of rugelach, the flaky rolled pastries, in her hand. But that’s where the stereotype ends. A Jewish mother herself, who often talks about her own Jewish mother, Gold is a 6’3” gay woman who carried one son and adopted the child of her former partner.
On a five-year odyssey around the United States with co-playwright Kate Moira Ryan to interview the subjects portrayed in her one-woman show about Jewish mothers, Gold did not find any mirror images. The show, which debuted at New York’s Ars Nova Theatre in 2006 and won a Drama Desk Award nomination and a 2007 GLAAD Award, will be presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts starting this Tuesday.
A host of HBO’s At the Multiplex with Judy Gold, recurring host on ABC’s The View, two-time Emmy Award winner (as writer/producer on The Rosie O’Donnell Show), and headliner on Comedy Central, Gold is the youngest of three siblings, who include an older brother she calls “the first-born male, so his name is Jesus.” She’s been a stand-up comic since discovering her talent while in college at Rutgers. Fast on the quips, she is also engaged in the subjects of motherhood and her status as a gay Jewish woman who’s a mom. “I keep kosher; I have two children; I’m gay; I’m a comic, so I don’t even have a real job. If I were married to a guy, I would have had my own TV sit-com 15 years ago.”
The interviews with 50 women across the country were scheduled between Gold’s touring bookings. “We started with Orthodox Jewish women in Queens and played Jewish geography to meet the others. I was scared of the Orthodox women because I’m gay. But they were great — maybe because I’m not their daughter.” She says she found all of the women “fascinating. One time, the husband was listening in the hall and sometimes the children. They were learning about their mothers as persons for the first time.”
|25 Questions for a Jewish Mother | Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, 527 Tremont St, Boston | December 18-31 | $15-$50 | 617.266.0800|
The common themes were food — no surprise there — and the fact that the women talked to their children every day. “Whenever we came to one of their houses, there was always a plate of rugelach,” Gold says of the culinary connection. And of the need to be in touch with their children: “I suppose because the Jews have been kicked out of every country since the beginning of time, it was important to know that they were safe.” Another bond among the women was the wish that their grandchildren be raised as Jews, even if their children had married outside the faith.
Gold admits, “My life is the through-line in the show.” But she also assumes the personae of the interviewees — which suggests a cross between the performances of Anna Deavere Smith and Eve Ensler. “I think it’s harder for women in comedy, like every profession except teaching and nursery. In this country, it’s considered a masculine trait: being able to control a room.”
On the Web
25 Questions for a Jewish Mother: www.huntingtontheatre.org