A Climax For Feldshuh

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it's hard to catch tovah feldshuh-that's pronounced felt-shoe, "like a shoe made out of felt," mind you-who for years has been bouncing between broadway, film, a stint on law and order as defense attorney danielle melnick, singing gigs and other projects. we caught up with her via phone, en route to a concert she was giving in florida. but she'd head north soon after, to her upper west side neighborhood where she'll be participating in a production of the vagina monologues, at the fourth universalist society. proceeds from the feb. 27 performance will benefit two local groups that work with women, the new york asian women's center and girls educational and mentoring services, while the feb. 28 performance will raise money for the v-day haiti rescue fund, to help haitian women and girls.

for a busy lady like feldshuh, though, participating in the benefit was a no-brainer.

"i'm doing this because i believe in the play, i believe in helping women and girls and protecting them from harm globally," she said. "finally, i'm dong this for my community."

q: i'm glad i caught you.

a: it's my pleasure to devote myself to a worthy cause. better devote yourself to worthy causes because in the end, when you get to my age, that's what you are left with. like if you devote yourself to money, you may have money, but you better make sure you have satisfaction, and a feeling of decency and peace, so something like-can you hear me sweetheart?-doing something like the vagina monologues gives one peace of mind because you're advocating not just for women, but women and girls. i'm a mother of a 21-year-old girl, a physics major at mit, and she's had all the great advantages of the women's movement and the great advantages of the greatest democracy in the western world, so she's in terrific shape. but children in pakistan and afghanistan and babies are not in such terrific shape. it's been an honor to raise money for them through the tools of my craft and with other people, with

the community.

q: you've performed in the vagina monologues before.

a: on off-broadway, in the main production in new york. i did various monologues. what i didn't do was the orgasm, which i'm about to do for this one. they offered it to me and i said, "absolutely not." and they said, "you're crazy, it's the best piece in the show!" and i said, "i'm not taking it." and they said, "why?" i said, "it's because my children are walking the earth, i don't feel comfortable." but now i do feel comfortable and i should go ahead and do that.

q: do you have a favorite media to work in?

a: i don't have a favorite media, but as i get older, i absolutely want to do more film and television. it's simply easier on the body. you think you're 30, and then you look at yourself in the mirror-i run four miles a day and swim 40 laps a day, so i am in great physical shape-but nonetheless, you think everything is up and high and you look and your breasts are down to your elbows. terrifying.

clearly, at the center of my heart is broadway. i love performing live, and i'm just going to do one of nine concerts right now live for thousands of people. so i certainly love it plenty and do it as a living. maybe because with that-like somebody's on a diet and wants to break out and eat different foods-it would be very amusing for me to star in a series now, or star in a broadway musical. to be honest with you, i haven't starred in a broadway musical since 1980, a very long time ago.

q: you've played so many iconic women before-golda meir, katharine hepburn. who's somebody that you're dying to play?

a: greta garbo. i've just been offered a play about greta garbo, i'd love to do that. and any of the cougar roles. i'm 5-foot-2, i weigh 111 pounds, i have a very good figure-i have a figure from my childhood, from my high school years. so any of those glam, she-doesn't-look-her-age roles, i'd really like to do. people think of me as this wonderfully fat-chubby, not fat-chubby old jewish woman. anyway, i would like to play any of the cougar roles. i love my husband to pieces and he's my life partner, but demi moore, she has it made, baby. that sounds great to me. that age span between her and her husband, that's just wild. god bless 'em both.

q: your brother is a pulitzer prize-winning playwright.

a: he's a finalist, thank you very much. he's a finalist for the pulitzer prize and i'm a four-time tony nominee for best actress. i have never won the tony. i've won many, many other awards, but i've been nominated six times: two for emmys and four times for tonys. but i won the drama desk, the outer critic circle, the theatre world, the lucille lortel. i won four drama desks, four outer critics; i've won a lot of them.

q: you wouldn't mind a tony, though.

a: oh i'd love one, i'd love one. i hope it won't be for something for life achievement, i'd like it actually to be for my work. but my brother was a pulitzer finalist for the play miss evers' boys, and i believe it went to the kentucky cycle that year, the nine-hour play.

feb. 27 at 8 p.m. and feb. 28 at 3 p.m., fourth universalist society, 160 central park west (at 76th st.), www.4thu.org/vm; $10 to $50.

transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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