When I was 12 years old, I saw Lily Tomlin in Jane Wagner’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. I would say that I was lucky, but it wasn’t luck, it was fate. I have loved Lily Tomlin since I could remember. Edith Ann was my best friend. But getting to see such a brilliant performer, on stage in a solo performance, changed my life. Not only did it foster my love of theatre, of great comic writing and women actors, but it gave me the idea of what was possible in life. I was learning the lessons of the show through the messages and the fact of the show in real time. I would describe the plot, but it wouldn’t do it any justice or probably make much sense. If you haven’t seen or read it, then you must. Just keep in mind the idea that reality is a collective hunch and you will be fine.
Lily and Jane, work and life partners for almost 50 years, wrote this show to make people laugh and move society forward. Girls who saw or read it were empowered by the words themselves and the fact that they were written and performed by successful women. I performed monologues from the show throughout high school and even as my audition for college theatre programs. The biggest takeaways for me were to question everything and that you have to forge your own path to find happiness in life. If the road map shows no way that you want to go, make a new way. Write your own stories, songs, poems, novels, films, etc. The legend comes with the passion and dedication to making it your truth. Because no one will care about you or your creative output if you don’t first, and champion it. Besides, legends are not meant for their own times, they are for both the future and for history.
-Ashley E. Remer
Girl Museum Inc.
Note: There aren’t really any clips of Lily doing the stage version online. There is a recent conversation about the show with both Lily and Jane here.