Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End - A One-Woman Show Months in the Making
Erma Bombeck was a writer. She wrote 14 books, and over 4,000 newspaper columns in her life. She was published semi-weekly in 900 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada and reached 30 million readers. Erma Bombeck was a housewife with one adopted daughter and two sons. She lived in Centerville Ohio, and she and her husband Bill were neighbors of Phil Donahue. Erma Bombeck was an activist and was involved in the Presidential Advisory Committee for Women with a particular interest in the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA. She was the one who got Missouri on board with the ERA. Erma Bombeck was born in 1927 and passed away in 1996 at the age of 69 due to complications during a kidney transplant surgery. But her legacy lives on and now, her story comes to the Lofte stage with Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End.
Melinda Mead takes on the role of Erma Bombeck in this one-woman show full of Erma’s hilarious wit as well as her life story. Melinda did her first show at The Lofte in 2007 - The Octet Bridge Club. She has not only been on stage but has worked behind the scenes as well and is the favorite stage manager of many Lofte performers. Melinda has also been on the board of directors since 2010.
As it turns out the two women have quite a bit in common. Melinda, like Erma, loves being a mom and appreciates the craziness of trying to raise a family. Erma even says in the show “I thought it was just my life that was zany. But when the columns came out everyone on the block said that their lives were like that too,” and Melinda could relate.
Melinda grew up reading Erma’s column, “At Wit’s End,” every week, 3 times a week, in the paper. She has read most of Erma’s books, if not all of them, so for her, getting to play Erma on stage was both a challenge and a treat. Melinda says, “I’m a huge fan! She was so funny. Even if you weren’t a stay at home mom, you loved reading what she wrote.
The auditions for “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” were around early March. And after auditions were complete, Melinda was cast maybe a week later and was given the script at the same time - which was by design. That way while Crimes of the Heart was ongoing, the person who would be cast could learn lines - and thank goodness for that! To learn the 30 page script, Melinda recorded herself saying the lines and had it burned to a CD so that she could work on lines in the car. She then broke the show out into pieces, 46 to be exact, each with it’s own theme, she put the list of themes onto a piece of paper that sits on her desk at work.
Melinda had mostly worked on it by herself rather than running lines with other people. But she also tries to do other things while she goes over the lines. That way when she got into rehearsals she would already be used to saying them while doing other things. She’d still have to learn the blocking, and remember the lines at the same time, but it was a start! She also got a head start on costuming by helping to clean out the costume shop earlier this year. As far as hair styles are concerned, Melina tends to wear her hair short these days, so she and her daughter-in-law Marissa (who was Chick in Crimes of the Heart) have been working on wigs and hair styles to get Erma’s look just right. On top of that Melinda has been listening to recordings of Erma Bombeck speaking to get an idea of how she spoke and taking queues on pacing and delivery.
When asked how she felt about the process so far, Melinda said, “I’m really excited. But at the same time, I’m terrified because it’s only me! I am very much a person who listens to the others on stage as scenes are usually a conversation and, if you listen to your castmates, they will tell you what your lines are simply through the nature of conversation. But here, there’s no one to tell me what my lines are! I have to rely on myself! It’s just me!” Hopefully the audience will be able to provide guidance based on laughter and feedback, because, just like Erma herself, the show is both funny and touching.
“This is, from my point of view, a love letter to Erma Bombeck. For those, especially, who, like me, read her columns and read her books, you will really enjoy this show. It will bring back a lot of memories for you. It has for me already.”
And if you don’t know who Erma Bombeck is, that is all the more reason to come and see this show! Take the opportunity to learn about this amazing woman in comedy who wrote a column that ran in over 900 newspapers - especially in a time that this scenario was unheard of. At the time she was the most syndicated columnist in the country - and a woman!
You can see “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End,” on May 28, 29 and 30 and June 3, 4, 5, and 6. Performances are at 7:00 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 2:00 pm Sundays. For tickets you can call the Lofte box office, or visit Lofte.org/tickets for further details