The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago
- 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
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
Madani Younis, Chief Executive Producer
Laura Aswad, Producer
Daisy Peele, Associate Producer
Frank Butler, Director of Production
Sarah Pier, Production Manager
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call (646) 455-3494 for information on how to reserve a seat near the ASL interpreter.
Thank you to our partners
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.
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