When you hear the words, “one woman show” you can’t help but think of Lily Tomlin. Her show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, penned by her wife Jane Wagner won a Tony Award as well as a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. The Broadway success was followed by a coast-to-coast tour that went on for four and a half years. The show was also made into a feature film which is a rarity for one person shows.
From the power tripping phone operator, Ernestine who snorts when she laughs to the opinionated bag lady who contacts space aliens though her umbrella hat, Ms. Tomlin has created some of the most memorable and lovable female characters in solo performance history. On Saturday, January 16 Mr. Tomlin will bring her one woman show to Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall as a guest of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. The show is sure to feature many of the personalities that reside within the mind of svelte and brilliant septuagenarian.
Ms. Tomlin first came to the stage as a stand-up comedian in the 60’s, but came to fame as a cast member of Laugh-In. It was on the variety show that she developed her many characters.
She auditioned for Laugh- In as the character of Lucille the rubber freak. Before there was ever a show called, My Strange Addiction, Lucille was addicted to eating rubber. She enjoyed dining on such treats as erasers, door stops and garden hoses until major breakthroughs in psychology enable her to put down the rubber and become just a regular, socially acceptable drunk.
From there she went on to invent many of the characters that may appear in the Portland show, including Edith Ann, a precocious five-year-old and Bobbi-Jeanine, an organ playing show business veteran who always performs in a motel lounge near the airport and who was found of giving world weary advice to her audience members.
A few characters that were created for, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life may make an appearance, including a 15 year old performance artist named Agnus Angst who has a less than edgy performance piece.
Ms. Tomlin has starred in many television shows and films and was always a role model for women. She is perhaps most famous for her role in the film, 9 to 5 as a feed up office worker who holds her boss hostage and takes over his job.
Ms. Tomlin’s act has always been progressive and thought provoking, without being scatological or mean spirited. Critics have called her show magical and warm.
In 2014, President Obama presented her with a Kennedy Center Honor. He said that the comedian “pushed boundaries” in her comedy and referenced to her famous skit Juke and Opal, in which she played a black café owner opposite Richard Pryor who played her junkie boyfriend. The skit appeared on her 1973 television special, Lily and according to Mr. Obama and was called “the most profound meditation race and class that he had ever seen on a major network,” by a television critic.
These days Ms. Tomlin can be seen on HBO’s Frankie and Grace where she plays the jilted wife of a latent homosexual. She is also the star of the film Grandma about a misanthropic woman who must raise over $600 in one day so her granddaughter can have an abortion.
Ms. Tomlin will go onstage at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the show are $30.00 to $125.00 and purchasing them well in advance is recommended.
Eliza Gale – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
Eliza Gale began her blogging career interviewing aspiring actors and industry professionals on a Los Angeles based website called Curvewire. She started www.elizagalesintervviews in 2012 and has interviewed over three hundred people about their jobs and businesses since then. She has contributed many interviews to 360drinks.com, which is a Portland based happy-hour website. She also writes for Examiner.com and AXS.com.