The Collegian
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Amy Wolf shines in one-woman Broadway play

Tina and Brandy are prostitutes, and Judith sells Tupper-ware and vibrators. Kate is already wealthy, so she does not work.

These may seem like different people, but senior Amy Wolf will play all four women in her one-woman show in February.

The show, "Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," centers on a homeless bag lady named Trudy, who talks to aliens to determine if humans are intelligent life.

Trudy and the aliens analyze nine other characters, including Tina, Brandy, Judith and Kate. The audience sees these characters as Trudy's visions, and Wolf will rely on a sound effect to inform the audience that she is switching characters.

"Even though you're seeing one person the entire time, it feels like there is an entire cast of people," said Paul Kappel, who handles lighting for the play and has seen a run-through of the show.

"Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" opened on Broadway in 1985. It was written by Jane Wagner and originally performed by Lily Tomlin. In 1986, Tomlin won a Tony Award for her performance in the play.

"It was sort of a sensation in the '80s," said Dorothy Holland, a theater professor and director of the play. "I saw it with Lily in New York, and I laughed until I cried. I didn't think about again until Amy had this senior production project."

Holland recommended that Wolf read the play, and she liked it so much she decided to produce it.

"I like it because it's funny, but a lot of it touches on what it means to be human," Wolf said.

Claire Natkin, stage manager and Wolf's roommate, said: "It's a really surprising play because it's so many comic monologues and then it becomes poignant and moving at the end. You're almost surprised when you get a lump in your throat or goose bumps at the end."

Wolf is producing and starring in the play as part of her Production Studies III class. In the class, students create a theater company and produce a play.

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When two students left the class and three students decided to study abroad, Wolf was the only student left. She was forced to create the company and produce the play herself. Her duties included selecting the play, raising funding, managing the budget, securing space in the Modlin Center to perform and finding a crew to help stage the production.

"This project really calls on all her skills and is really challenging," Holland said. "Not everyone does a senior thesis of this size."

The rest of the crew echoed Holland's admiration for all of Wolf's efforts.

"It's amazing how hard she's worked and how many lines she's memorized. It's essentially a two-hour monologue," Kappel said.

Wolf began work on this project in the middle of last semester, and she even came back to Richmond during Christmas break to work on it. In addition to the three-hour rehearsals six days a week, Wolf "spends hours and hours working on it, and going over it in the apartment," Natkin said.

Wolf has plenty of acting experience to fall back on. Her first play was in kindergarten, and throughout high school she worked at the Riverside Center Theater in Fredericksburg, Va. She said she had acted throughout her time at Richmond.

Wolf, a senior from Stafford, Va., and a double-major in history and theater, said that while she enjoys her history studies at Richmond, "acting gives me a chance to use my analysis instead of writing papers, and it's fun to be someone else for a while."

The historical aspect of "Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" is apparent in its focus on women in the 1970s. Wolf said that a third of the play is about the women's movement.

"It really does trace what these women's hopes and goals are," Wolf said. "One woman, she's unemployed, she's looking for a job and she's so courageous, but she can't do anything."

As a senior, Wolf herself is looking for a job. She is interested in being a director and has upcoming auditions with the Virginia Stage Company. Television acting will not be in her future because of its incredibly difficult training, she said.

"When you act on stage, you use the whole body and project your voice, but when you act on camera, it isolates only one part of your body," she said.

Wolf will be performing Feb. 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. in the Cousins Studio Theatre in the Modlin Center. Holland described the setting as very flexible and intimate. She promised that there would be a "scenic surprise," but would not reveal what it was.

Tickets are free, but must be reserved at the Modlin Center box office.

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