The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

DEC 21, 2021 – FEB 6, 2022
The iconic exploration of society, art, and human connectivity, revisited for our times

About this commission

“a true goosebump experience”
Read the review in the New York Times

Jane Wagner’s ever-timely, iconic, one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, examines American society, art, and human connectivity and explores the feminist movement. Revisited in a new 90-minute production, produced by The Shed, the comedic and quick-witted play stars Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live, Schmigadoon!) in her New York theatrical debut, directed by Tony-nominated Leigh Silverman (The Lifespan of a Fact, Violet).

In a role originated by Lily Tomlin, Strong first becomes Trudy, a mischievously clever observer of the society around her. As Strong transforms into a series of other archetypal characters, Trudy becomes the play’s guiding conscience for the audience—a comical, quirky, and outlandish conveyor of the nuances of American society.

Creative Team

The writer Jane Wagner, a white woman with auburn hair, sitting at a table with hands crossed in front of her, with a shelf full of books and other objects behind her.
Photo: Michael Childers.
Jane Wagner
The director Leigh Silverman smiling. She has straight dark brown hair with bangs.
Courtesy Leigh Silverman.
Leigh Silverman
The performer Cecily Strong standing in a black dress with one hand on her hip
Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC.
Cecily Strong
Choreographer James Alsop in a tan zip-up top with her hair parted down the middle and a dark to light brown ombré
Courtesy James Alsop.
James Alsop
Co-set designer Mary Hamrick wearing a green cardigan with a breeze blowing her shoulder-length brown hair away from the left side of her face
Photo: Sara Kerens.
Mary Hamrick
Co-set designer Christine Jones with hair falling beneath her shoulders and wearing a high collared coat
Photo: Pilot Roberts.
Christine Jones
Costume designher Anita Yavich standing in front of a green tree and brick wall. She wears glasses a necklace with a large round medallion and a black deep-v neck shirt over a lighter gray shirt with a higher neck
Photo: Jenny Graham.
Anita Yavich
Lighting designer Stacey Derosier smiling, sitting with her hands together in her lap and wearing an all-black outfit and cap
Courtesy Stacey Derosier.
Stacey Derosier
Composer and sound designer Elisheba Ittoop smiling with her bangs falling over her brow
Courtesy Elisheba Ittoop.
Elisheba Ittoop
Production stage manager Justin Scribner with his head turned to the side and light falling on his face
Courtesy Justin Scribner.
Justin Scribner
Jane Wagner

Jane Wagner has won numerous awards, including two Peabodys, four Emmys, a Writer’s Guild Award for her work in television, and the seldom-given New York Drama Critics’ Circle Special Award for her Broadway success, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Wagner made her writing debut with the acclaimed CBS teleplay entitled J.T. (1969) and her book of the same title. In 1971, Wagner began working with Lily Tomlin on an Edith Ann album, Edith Ann: And That’s the Truth (1972). Wagner’s later credits include two more Grammy-nominated albums, Modern Scream (1975) and On Stage (1978), which she also produced, eight Lily Tomlin television specials (1973 – 82), three Edith Ann animated specials (1994 – 96), and Edith Ann’s book, My Life, So Far (1994).

In 1977, Wagner wrote and directed for Broadway Appearing Nitely and also wrote the screenplay for The Incredible Shrinking Woman. In 1985, Wagner brought The Search to Broadway where it became an acclaimed play of the Broadway season. The hardcover edition of The Search became the first play in 20 years to appear on the New York Times Best-Seller list.

In 2019, Lincoln Center honored Wagner and Tomlin with a retrospective of their careers, Two Free Women. In 2020, Wagner was honored with the prestigious Lambda Literary Visionary Award, for her innovative work.

Leigh Silverman
Leigh Silverman’s Broadway credits include Grand Horizons (2ST; Williamstown Theater Festival), The Lifespan of a Fact (Studio 54), Violet (Roundabout; Tony nomination), Chinglish (Goodman Theatre; Longacre), and Well (Public Theater; ACT; Longacre). Recent Off-Broadway credits include Soft Power (Public Theater; Ahmanson Theater/Curran Theater; Drama Desk nomination), Tumacho (Clubbed Thumb), Hurricane Diane (New York Theatre Workshop; Two River Theater), Harry Clarke (Vineyard Theatre/Audible, Minetta Lane; Lortel nomination), Wild Goose Dreams (Public Theater; La Jolla Playhouse), Sweet Charity (New Group), On The Exhale (Roundabout), and The Outer Space (Public Theater). Encores include Bring Me to Light, Violet, The Wild Party, and Really Rosie. Silverman received 2011 and 2019 Obie Awards for Sustained Excellence. Upcoming projects include Suffs (Public Theater).
Cecily Strong

Cecily Strong is best known for her work as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, where she returns for her 10th season. Strong received back-to-back Emmy nominations in 2020 and 2021 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on SNL. She has entertained viewers with her standout “Weekend Update” character, Cathy Anne, Michael Che’s wacky chain-smoking neighbor who offers her opinions on current events. Her recurring character Gemma, a British “singer” with various boyfriends, also quickly became a fan favorite. She has earned rave reviews for her notable Judge Jeanine Pirro, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Melania Trump impressions. Strong has co-hosted “Weekend Update” alongside both Seth Meyers and Colin Jost.

Most recently, Strong starred on Apple TV+’s 2021 hit musical series, Schmigadoon!, on which she also serves as a producer. Her memoir, This Will All Be Over Soon, was released in summer 2021. In Chicago, Strong improvised regularly at iO and served as an understudy for the Second City Main Stage and E.T.C. shows. She performed as a member of the Second City national touring company and has also appeared at the Chicago SketchFest, Chicago Just for Laughs, the New York Sketch Fest, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Strong has appeared in the films The Female Brain and Paul Feig’s reboot of Ghostbusters, as well as Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss, The Bronze, and The Meddler. Additionally, Strong headlined the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Strong was raised in Oak Park, Illinois, and has a BFA in theater from the California Institute of the Arts.

James Alsop

James Alsop most recently choreographed the Peacock musical TV series Girls5eva, executive produced by Tina Fey. Her choreography has also been featured on the FX series Pose, the Netflix musical series Soundtrack, and the HBO Max reboot of Gossip Girl. Up next her choreography will be featured on the upcoming season of Emily in Paris on Netflix. In addition, she is currently co-choreographing the upcoming Broadway musical The Devil Wears Prada.

She began her career as co-choreographer of Beyoncé’s videos, tour, and promotional materials for the multiplatinum selling records “Who Run the World (Girls),” “Dance For You,” and “Love on Top.” She also assisted in choreographing the megahit music video “Booty” by Jennifer Lopez and worked with Oscar-nominated director Paul Thomas Anderson for the HAIM music video “Just A Little of Your Love.” After choreographing the entire season of Maya Rudolph and Martin Short’s variety series Maya & Marty, she was asked by Tina Fey and Jeff Richmond to choreograph season three of the Emmy-nominated series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and has since worked for shows on NBC, Showtime, Netflix, and others. When not working with top stars, she teaches around the country and world, educating young artists and dancers to be who they are in their art form and love it.

Mary Hamrick
Co-set Designer
Mary Hamrick’s New York credits include One Thrilling Combination (The Public Theater, dir. Ted Sperling), Leisure, Labor, Lust (HERE), and Portals (Dusan Tynek Dance Theatre). Regional credits include Oh Hello tour (dir. Alex Timbers) and Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers (Blank Theatre Co.). Hamrick has worked as an associate on many Broadway productions including King Kong, The Cher Show, Rocky, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Currently, Hamrick is designing the world premiere of Other World at Delaware Theatre Company, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and written by Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, and Anne McNamee, with art direction by WETA Workshop.
Christine Jones
Co-set Designer
Christine Jones is the creator and artistic director of the critically acclaimed Theatre For One and a director of one-of-a-kind experiences for companies like Rag & Bone and productions such as Queen of the Night (Drama Desk Award for Best Unique Experience). She is a Tony- and Olivier Award–winning set designer for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II and received a Tony Award for American Idiot. During the pandemic, she conceived and directed SOCIAL! the social distance dance club with Steven Hoggett and David Byrne at the Park Avenue Armory, where she is also an artist-in-residence, and curated Radiohead’s digital art exhibition KID A MNESIA, which launched in November 2021. Upcoming credits include Macbeth (starring Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga).
Anita Yavich
Costume Designer

Anita Yavich designed the Broadway productions of Fool for Love, Venus in Fur, Chinglish, and Anna in the Tropics. Her New York design credits include Soft Power and Oedipus El Rey at the Public; The Mother at the Atlantic Theatre Company; Apologia at the Roundabout; The View Upstairs at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre; Nathan the Wise, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Orlando, Venus in Fur, New Jerusalem, and Texts for Nothing at Classic Stage Company; Thom Pain, Big Love, Kung Fu, Golden Child, and Iphigenia 2.0 at Signature Theater; The Oldest Boy at Lincoln Center Theater; Tales from Red Vienna and The Explorer’s Club at Manhattan Theatre Club; Lives of the Saints and All in the Timing at Primary Stages; The Legend of Georgia McBride, The Submission, Coraline the Musical, and The Wooden Breeks at Manhattan Class Company; and Macbeth, Coriolanus, and Svejk at Theater for a New Audience. She has received numerous awards for her designs, including the Ovation Award, Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Award, IRNE Award, Obie Award, Henry Hewes Awards, and the Irene Shariff Young Master Award.

Her opera credits include Aida at San Francisco Opera; Cyrano De Bergerac at La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, and Royal Opera House (Covent Garden); Les Troyens at the Metropolitan Opera; Facing Goya at Spoleto Festival and Singapore Festival; La Hija de Rappaccini with Gotham Chamber Opera; The Rape of Lucretia at Houston Grand Opera; Ainadamar at Tanglewood; The Gambler at Opera Zuid (Holland); Steve Reich’s Three Tales international tour; Salome, Fidelio, Die Walkure, and Das Rheingold at Washington National Opera; Arsace Il at San Francisco Opera; Madame Butterfly at Houston Grand Opera and Grand Théâtre de Genève; and The Silver River at Spoleto and Lincoln Center Festival. She has also designed puppets and costumes for The Sound of Music at Salzburger Marionetten Theater. She is currently working on a new production of Der Ring des Nibelungen at Opera Australia.

Stacey Derosier
Lighting Designer
Stacey Derosier credits include The Last of the Love Letters (Atlantic Theater Company); The Great Filter (Wild Project); PEEP SHOW (Soho Rep, Project #1); Here We Are (Theater for One); All the Natalie Portmans (MCC Theater); Stew (Page 73); The Copper Children (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Men on Boats (Baltimore Center Stage); for all the women who thought they were Mad (Soho Rep); White Noise, conceived by Daniel Fish (NYU Skirball); Playing Hot! (Pipeline Theater Company); Mies Julie & Dance of Death (Classic Stage Company); and No One Is Forgotten and Lewiston/Clarkston (Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater). Derosier is a 2018 Lilly Award Daryl Roth Prize recipient.
Elisheba Ittoop
Original Music, Sound Designer
Elisheba Ittoop’s designs and original music have been heard at the Kennedy Center, the Public Theater, Roundabout Theatre, American Repertory Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, MCC, Guthrie Theater, Atlantic Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, American Conservatory Theatre, Williamstown Theater Festival, Steppenwolf Theatre, Signature Theatre, Soho Rep, Shakespeare Theatre Company, National Gallery of Art, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Okeechobee Music Festival, and the Life is Beautiful Music Festival. Ittoop is a sound designer and composer for the New York Times. She has produced podcasts and written music for NPR, CNN, Audible, WGBH, WFMT, and Sony Music. She attended New York University and the North Carolina School of the Arts. Visit
Joseph Whitmeyer
Wig Designer
Joseph Whitmeyer hails from central New York State. After a detour styling wigs for Walt Disney World, he returned as a hairstylist on several Broadway shows including 42nd Street and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Joseph then began working in tv/film as a key hairstylist on Blue Bloods, Madam Secretary, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Normal Heart. He has been a member of the Saturday Night Live hair team for 13 seasons, serving as a key stylist for film units and earning four Emmy Awards. He is also owner/operator of a wig design and rental company Whitmeyer Wigs.
Jeremy Chernick
Special Effects Designer
Jeremy Chernick has worked on over 50 Broadway shows. Recent Broadway credits include Pass Over, Company, Beetlejuice, and Hadestown. Chernick worked on The Shed’s Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise and created special effects for Disney Theatrical Group’s Beauty & the Beast, Frozen, Aladdin, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Tarzan. West End credits include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Let the Right One In. Chernick won an Emmy Award for NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live and serves as head designer for J&M Special Effects in Brooklyn.
Sophiyaa Nayar
Associate Director
Aoshuang Zhang
Set Design Associate
Bee Gable
Assistant Costume Designer
Steven Zhang
Lighting Design Associate
Chris Darbassie
Sound Design Associate
Justin Scribner
Production Stage Manager
Justin Scribner is a stage manager, producer, playwright, poet, and self-care advocate. He was the production stage manager of the Tony-winning Broadway revival of Once on This Island and the associate director of its national tour. Other Broadway stage management credits include The Crucible, Rock of Ages, A Chorus Line, RENT, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Lennon, Pacific Overtures, and Little Shop of Horrors. Scribner is the producing director of the Forest of Arden, as well as an adjunct professor for the MFA stage management program at Columbia University. His first collection of poetry and short stories, every grain of sand, was published in 2020.


  • Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
  • Production includes haze and strobe effects
  • Recommended for ages 12 and up; includes adult language and content
  • Masks are required, even when you are seated in the theater
  • Late Seating: There is only one late-seating opportunity, approximately 10 minutes after the show begins; after that time no one will be admitted to the theater


Production Credits

Executive produced by Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin

Justin Scribner, Production Stage Manager
P. Tyler Britt, Assistant Stage Manager
Corinne Gologursky, Prop Supervisor
Luke Simcock, Costume Supervisor
Seth Huling, Head Audio–Griffin Theater
Maytté Martinez, Head Lighting–Griffin Theater
Josh Galitzer, Head Carpenter–Griffin Theater
Lisa DelCegno, Props
Ann Comanar, Head Wardrobe
Chris Leary, Dresser
Joanna Pisani, Hair and Makeup Supervisor
Jessie Sabatino, Covid Health and Safety Manager
Adalhia Hart, Production Assistant
Zoe Nelms, Dramaturgy Intern

Scenic elements by Upstate Scenic
Lighting equipment provided by Christie Lights
Audio equipment provided by Sound Associates
Special effects by Jauchem & Meeh Special Effects
Costumes executed by John Kristiansen New York, Inc.
Painting and distressing of costumes by Hochi Asiatico
Millinery by Denise Wallace-Spriggs
Special thanks to Jessica Zivny, Vogue Too, BCCO NYC, and Kyle Pearson Theatrical

Shed Program Team
Alex Poots, Artistic Director and CEO
Madani Younis, Chief Executive Producer
Laura Aswad, Producer
Daisy Peele, Associate Producer
Frank Butler, Director of Production
Sarah Pier, Production Manager
Special thanks to Brooke Wents from The Rights Workshop, Candice Nelms, and Paul Cilione.
The Actors and Stage Managers employed in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. The Shed operates under an agreement between The Shed and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Backstage crew employees are represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (or I.A.T.S.E).

United Scenic Artists Local USA 829 of the I.A.T.S.E represents the Designers and Scenic Artists for the American Theater.

The Director and Choreographer are members of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union.

Location and dates

This event takes place in The Griffin Theater.

Schedule (with some exceptions):

Tuesdays – Thursdays at 7 pm
Fridays at 8 pm
Saturdays at 2 and 8 pm
Sundays at 3 pm

Previews December 21 – January 9 (Aspects of the production may be adjusted in subsequent performances.)

Performances on January 20 and 23 feature American Sign Language interpretation. Please email or call (646) 455-3494 for information on how to reserve a seat near the ASL interpreter.

Thank you to our partners

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe is supported by

The creation of new work at The Shed is generously supported by the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Commissioning Fund and the Shed Commissioners. Major support for live productions at The Shed is provided by the Charina Endowment Fund, with additional support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

The Shed is connected by