Lily Tomlin Graces the Stage Photo by Greg Gorman
Thursday, February 16 2012 21:14

Lily Tomlin Graces the Stage

By  Frank Kaye

When one recalls the most memorable performances of Lily Tomlin, the following may come floating to mind: Ernestine & Edith Ann from Martin & Rowan’s Laugh In; Violet Newstead from 9 to 5; Pat Kramer from The Incredible Shrinking Woman; Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Or perhaps Tomlin’s hilarious role in the 1988 movie Big Business in which she appeared alongside the incomparable Bette Midler.

Tomlin will be showcasing many of her timeless characters to the delight of audience members at the Strathmore in Bethesda. Tomlin, who Newsweek credited with making “the one person show the daring, irreverent art form it is today” will perform to a sold-out crowd.

Her enduring and charismatic career has spanned the last five decades. Born in Detroit, Mich., Tomlin originally studied medicine before leaving college to become a performer. Throughout the late 1960’s, Tomlin made several small television appearances, before joining Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In in 1969. It was there in which Tomlin rose to national acclaim for her engaging and comedic characterizations.

On top of being an iconic comedian, Tomlin is also known for her candor regarding the fact she has been in a lesbian relationship with her partner Jane Wagner for over the last 40 years. It was in 1971, after viewing a Wagner-written after-school special that Tomlin invited Wagner to collaborate with her on a comedy album. Although Tomlin did not officially “come out” to the national press until recently, which many still regard as not a formal “coming out,” many around Tomlin were aware of her sexual orientation and relationship with Wagner. As Tomlin stated in an interview with Just Out in 2008: “Everybody in the industry was certainly aware of my sexuality and of Jane... In interviews I always reference Jane and talk about Jane, but they don’t always write about it.”

Even though Tomlin is well-known for her comedic portrayals, she occasionally dabbles in television and motion picture dramas. In the 1999 movie Tea with Mussolini, Tomlin played Georgie Rockwell, an openly gay archeologist who was entangled in the pre-World War II turmoil against the Fascists in Florence, Italy.

Tomlin is also known for her work in many feminist projects. Through her performance as Violet Newstead, the feminist and powerhouse character she created in 9 to 5, Tomlin pressed for gender equality through her characterization of a hard-working, middle-class mom and widow in the 1970’s. As quoted in MetroWeekly in 2006, “9 to 5 made people aware of equal pay for equal work. It hasn’t really happened, but it has come closer.” Tomlin’s character Violet echoed the voice of the people when she heralded the famous line, “I am your employee and as such I expect to be treated equally with a little dignity and a little respect!” It’s clear that an actress and comedian who, over the course of her career, has earned two Tonys, two Peabodys, six Emmys, a Grammy, the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards, and the Mark Twain Prize for American humor, has certainly garnered the respect of both her peers and audiences worldwide.

Lily Tomlin
Sunday, February 26 • 7pm
Music Center at Strathmore
5301 Tuckerman Ln. • 301.581.5100
Strathmore.org

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