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The Lady Still Has All the Answers

Blackledge as Landers 175

Who is “the answer lady?” Newspaper readers of a “certain age” will recognize her as advice columnist Ann Landers. Now, she is the subject of a new play by David Rambo that had its regional premiere with an IUP connection at The Electric Theater Company (ETC), a professional theater in Scranton, Pa.

IUP professor of theater Barb Blackledge selected the play and drew great reviews at ETC. She will reprise her role of Ann Landers—whose given name was Eppie Friedman—as Keystone Repertory Theater (KRT) presents The Lady With All the Answers. In this one-woman show, Friedman speaks directly to the audience about her now-legendary struggles in writing a particularly difficult column about relationships, including her own.

The four performances will be held June 17–20, 2010, in the Waller Hall Studio Theater of IUP’s Performing Arts Center. All performances begin at 8:00 p.m. Seating is limited and advance purchase is highly recommended.

Blackledge acted the role at ETC this past spring while on sabbatical from IUP. She spent weeks studying Friedman in books and videos, gaining a sense of the nuances that make her come to life with human interest and conflict.

“It was terrifying,” she remarked. “I’ve never done a one-woman show before. In most plays, you have at least one other partner on stage to save you if something goes wrong. But in this one, I’m out there all by myself.”

Strong reviews of the original production have led to added performances, with a re-engagement in Scranton to be presented this November. The production is also tentatively scheduled for additional performances at IUP in late October.

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The production was originally directed by Mary Ethel Schmidt. “It’s a real eye-opener: What a life she had, how funny she was, her wit and her courage,” explains Schmidt. “I think that visiting Ann Landers is going to be an extremely surprising look of who she was, and you’ll enjoy the visit.” Schmidt will be in Indiana to re-stage the KRT production.

Department of Theater and Dance chairperson Brian Jones looked to include Blackledge’s one-woman show in the offerings produced at IUP this summer. “KRT exists to provide theater for the university community during the summer, and by extension the greater Indiana community,” said Jones. “This play is a perfect show for our intimate studio theater, where Friedman, a.k.a. Landers, can speak right to them about what are often very intimate subjects.”

Tickets are available in advance at the Hadley Union Building on the IUP campus. Tickets may also be purchased with a credit card by calling the HUB ticket office at 724-357-1313. Tickets are available on line at IUP Tickets. The cost is $7 for regular admission, $6 for senior citizens, and $4 for students.

The production deals with some sensitive and personal issues and is not recommended for younger children. For more information, contact The Lively Arts at 724-357-2547 or e-mail lively-arts@iup.edu.

Keystone Repertory Theater is produced by the Department of Theater and Dance of IUP’s College of Fine Arts. It is funded, in part, by the Student Cooperative Association.

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