Audience members will get a bit of insight into the life and work of popular advice columnist Ann Landers in the latest production to hit the Theatre at the Center stage.
"The Lady With All The Answers" opens in previews today at Munster's Theatre at the Center. The one-woman show runs through Aug. 12.
Starring as Landers is Janet Ulrich Brooks, who is performing for the first time at TATC.
Brooks said she was honored to take on the role of a woman who was so influential in America.
"One of the most fascinating things about her to me was her energy," Brooks said, during a recent telephone interview. The actress said she also admired Landers' "ability to listen."
Written by David Rambo, "The Lady With All The Answers" takes a look at some of the behind the scenes stories of Landers' life and work. It largely takes place in Landers' Lake Shore Drive apartment during a time where she's contemplating a column about the fact that the World Almanac named her the most influential woman in the U.S.
Brooks said the real Landers was a person who really listened to what people said and genuinely tried to help them.
"She kept an open mind and was willing to change her mind," the actress said about the advice columnist.
Brooks said she enjoys performing in front of a live audience. "I love storytelling and I look forward to having people to tell the story to," she said.
Although this is Brooks' first time on stage at Theatre at the Center, she's honed her craft on a variety of other stages through the years, including The Goodman Theatre and TimeLine Theatre, both in Chicago. Brooks has also done film and television work.
About Landers' ability to help people and provide all her great answers to questions, Brooks said the advice columnist was akin to "the first Google."
"She was really our first social media," Brooks said, with a chuckle.
Brooks said she grew up reading the popular column, and her family got the paper every day. "My mother would be sitting at the table and saying 'Listen to this column.' "
The actress said one of the challenges of doing a one-woman show is trying to keep one's stamina. "And when you're in a one-woman play, you're your own scene partner."
Brooks, who's an Oak Park resident, said she's long been attracted to the theatrical art.
"The theater is where I go to learn about the human experience, to laugh about it, to cry and to celebrate the human experience," she said. "It's all about the human connection, sharing stories together and talking about it later."
In conjunction with the play, the exhibit "Making Headlines: From Ann Landers to Walter Winchell," will be displayed through Sept. 3 at the Atrium Gallery of South Shore Arts, located just outside the theater. The display, curated by author Philip Potempa, who is Theatre at the Center's marketing director, features items and memorabilia from Potempa's personal collection.