You could hear the anticipation in the theater. The quiet chatter among theater majors was part of the excitement, though some were indecisive about choosing the best seat. They settled in and patiently waited as comedienne Mary Jean Tomlin ran 10 minutes late on the afternoon of Sept. 30.
“This is probably my favorite of all the productions and celebrities that have come here,” said Theresa D. Donnelly, community outreach liaison.
Donnelly said they could have sold out the venue, but that they wanted a more intimate setting for the students because they deserve it.
“These students are the cream of the crop,” Donnelly said of the 25 present at the Plaza Del Sol Performance Hall.
Tomlin stepped on stage and walked right to the edge, were she proceeded to sit and admit to the students that she didn’t know where to start. She welcomed any questions.
Tomlin was asked to talk about her life; how she got started doing what she does best, making people laugh; how she came up with all her characters; and her opinion on female comedy roles today.
Tomlin began talking about her childhood. She would babysit eight to 10 kids at the age of 10; the parents thought she was responsible enough, which she said was a “misguided view.”
She said she would use the neighborhood kids to put on shows and would charge anyone who wanted to see the show, but she said that it didn’t last long because the “neighborhood kids were not as committed as me to stage work.”
In high school she was a cheerleader because, as she put it, “that was the only socially acceptable way to be an exhibitionist really.”
Tomlin said the drama club was looked down on and there were not many outlets to practice her comedy and acting. She said she felt at home on the stage at an early age.
“If you have ever had a glorious theater experience you never forget it,” she said. “There is something divine.”
Tomlin explained that characters are impressions of what you see. She told students that a lot of her characters come from culture types and that she just tried to put her mark on them.
“You have to yearn that you will see something or think of something,” she said, and added that during performance you have to commit to every movement.
Tomlin explained that she came along at a time when very few women did comedy. “I was lucky,” she said.
Tomlin said that today money, position and celebrity are important. She said she was shocked by MTV’s portrayal of women.
“It was a different time, we had a different work ethic,” Tomlin said, and explained that back then you didn’t just do anything for money.
Tomlin used Paris Hilton as an example of how people today can just do anything for money, position or to gain celebrity status.
Tomlin told the students that they have to enjoy and be passionate about performing, and that when it comes to worrying about how to make a living they have to “put it in another bag,” she said. “You find a way to make a living. I was a waitress and an office temp plenty of times. ”
Richard Serrano, a theater major, magician and self-proclaimed “jack of all trades,” said, “Now you know how it is, we’re in this forever.”
Junior Georgette Brotherson said Tomlin’s appearance was “empowering and encouraging.”
Brotherson said she was amazed at everything that the theater department has to offer and that it was nice to see someone who cares so much about the theater business.
Along with her one-woman show “The Search,” Tomlin is currently working on an HBO pilot, in which she plays a Dallas matriarch who gets rich from real estate.