Jennifer Childs, Artistic Director of 1812 Productions, writes about her recent investigations of the female comic voice, as she develops an upcoming 1812 production, It’s My Party: The Women and Comedy Project, running from April 25 to May 19, 2013. Through a series of “generational labs,” Childs has been exploring the ways in which women turn to comedy at various stages of their lives, how a woman’s comic voice is unique from her male counterparts, and how it changes over time. The labs explore female comedic stereotypes—the airhead, the neurotic, the diva, the harpy, the batty old lady—and will inform Childs’ eventual script, along with interviews of over 50 women, including famous female comedians such as Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of one of the 20th century’s most significant comedic actresses. It’s My Party: The Women and Comedy Project received a 2011 grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. Image courtesy of 1812 Productions.
I embarked on The Women and Comedy Project initially because my mother turned 70 the same year my daughter turned seven. I stood between them and watched how they were both really funny in really different ways. My mother is funnier in her 70s than she ever was in her 40s and I find myself thinking, where was this person when I was a teenager? We would have gotten along so much better! Some have challenged me, saying, “Do you ever consider that maybe she’s always been funny and it’s you who’s changed?” And while I admit that may be true, I also note that she is more in possession of who she is than she has ever been. She is less concerned about what other people think and that gives her a freedom to be funny in ways she couldn’t be before.