Covid-19 brought down the curtain after sold-out shows in February and March. Now the show is streaming!
Note: Times are 9 pm Eastern, 6 pm ...
Note: Times are 4 pm Eastern, 1 pm Pacific
“Carolyn Meyer’s new one-woman show The Old White Lady Tells It is a marvelous coming-of-age story of one person’s slow realization and ultimate rejection of the racist ethos that cripples her family and culture. … the octogenarian Meyer is a brilliant raconteur whose command of the stage and scintillating presence holds the audience in rapt attention.” --Matthew Yde, ABQ Journal critic
"Meyer keeps this intensely revealing story funny from opening to close. The stage is dark and bare except for a chair and a faceless white doll she uses as a prop. Director Barry Simon, who notes in the program, 'With humor, empathy, and the cold, precise eye of a writer, Carolyn stands up and exposes through her stories not only the 'isms' she learned and had to reject, but the ones we too have to confront.'
This is an excellent show." -- Rob Spiegel, Talkin' Broadway
What was the name of your black dog when you were four years old?
What was your opinion of integrated schools when you were a college freshman?
This summer, on top of everything else, America is grappling with its racist past and present in a way that at least seems different. From the removal of public monuments that honored horrific people, to the reconsideration of how policing is done, our national discussion has taken on a more serious and immediate tone. The conversation is both public and personal.
Carolyn Meyer is an 85-year-old white woman that has grappled with racism herself; her own. Her one-woman show is about growing up in small-town America, how racism permeated everything and how she changed her own mind. It is a personal story about a deep-rooted national problem. Weekly Alibi sat down with Meyer to talk about her own evolution in thinking about race, her one-woman show and what’s next. The following is an edited version of that conversation.
Weekly Alibi: You’ve written 60 books for teenagers, primarily historical fiction, and then in your 80s you took up standup comedy. What’s the difference between speaking through some historical figure in print and telling your own story in person?
Carolyn Meyer: When I'm writing about a historical person, I'm encouraged and inspired by the events of their lives. I do try to imagine myself into that person and how that must've felt hundreds of years ago or whenever it was. It's been extremely freeing for me just to deal with the events of my own life and have fun with it.
Your one-woman show, The Old White Lady Tells It, was on stage, but will soon be streaming. In it you talk about how you began questioning your own racist upbringing. Was that a slow, intellectual process or was it revelatory?
Experiential. I didn't philosophize my way through it growing up in essentially a racist family, which was pretty common for that time. I grew up in central Pennsylvania, just very politically and socially conservative, going to minstrel shows with my parents and seeing nothing strange about that. They got me a puppy when I was a little kid, a black Cocker spaniel, and we named it Sambo, which horrifies me now, but at the time that was a perfectly ordinary thing to do.
In a small town in Pennsylvania [we would have] black entertainers come to town, Todd Duncan, I remember. I don't know that that would be a familiar name to anyone else, but he came and gave a concert in the high school, which is where all the concerts were. [I remember] being very moved by him and his performance. Looking back on it now, I think where did he stay that night? There's no place he could have stayed in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. You had to go onto Harrisburg or Philly or something. How did he deal with that? Then, I went off to college, a white liberal arts college. There were no Negroes there. You get older and start thinking back on how all that occurred.
Was it a process of trial and error, like, this just doesn't make sense?
At the time it made sense. On reflection it was like, what was that about? There would be this time lag. I really wouldn't examine it until the ’60s, with the civil rights movement, then I'd start looking back at how things had been for me during the forties and fifties. Wait a minute. What's going on here?
Can American society slowly reason its way out of our racist culture, or do we need an event of some kind to change the way we see and treat each other?
Look what's happened since George Floyd. Something really crystallized. I don't think this is going to fade, and I hope that it focuses positively, but I'm afraid there's going to be a lot of negativity along the way. That's going to be met with resistance on both sides. Pushing and resistance.
You have transitioned from a life of writing professionally to standup comedy of all things, but who knows when the next time you're going to be able to be in a room with other people. So, what's next?
I'm going to scratch my head over that one, too. I'm trying to pivot. I’m developing a number of short pieces that I can perform as monologues and get them out as an audio book. Simultaneously, get all those essays together as an ebook and see how that works.
Personal stories? Is that something that you've done throughout your life or is it now time to reflect?
I collected all this stuff. I'm a big fan of David Sedaris. He's very funny and very philosophical. A great storyteller. He has this big wacky family that he can draw on. I'm an only child, but I can draw on that.
Tell me a little bit more about the show and how it's adapted to streaming.
Luckily, we had it taped, I think in the second performance. There had been some talk about filming it over again without an audience, but I react to an audience. I really need it. Put me in front of an audience. I always thought I was an introvert, but putting me in front of an audience and something happens.
You're not a trained performer.
You’re also not a historian, but you’ve got a unique perspective on the story arc of pivotal events in history from your writing. How do you think the various storylines from the global pandemic to the culture wars end?
I have no idea. I'm watching it all play out along with everybody else. This is a fascinating time in history if we survive it.
Your books have been primarily historical fiction centered around challenges of historical figures. Do you have any advice for young people living through this time?
Pay attention. Observe it. Live it.
What do you know at 85 that would have been helpful to know at 15?
Probably that I'd still be alive 70 years later.
The lesson is take care of your teeth?
Oh my God, you really can't depend on anything, except yourself and your own resources.
Do you think you'll reach a point in your life where you've said everything you want to say?
Oh, hell no, I'm just getting started.
A silver-haired woman walks into a bar...
"In the ’50s, when Carolyn “Callie” Meyer ’57 finally won the coveted charm anointing her “the Most Useful Girl” in her high school, she never imagined it would become the rallying cry of her one-woman stage show 60-some years later. After a late foray into standup comedy, this prolific author (60-plus books!) leveraged the charm as the closing punch line of her show. Following 13 sold-out performances that drove audiences wild in her hometown of Albuquerque, Meyer’s piece was selected by the United Solo Theatre Festival for an Oct. 27, 2019, off-Broadway performance.
The charm bracelet sparking a thousand laughs (and Carolyn Meyer’s one-woman show) anchors her Most Useful Girl Award and several Bucknell charms, among them, Sigma Tau Delta and Alpha Lambda Delta.
Bucknell Magazine, Fall 2019
A LOT OF MY SHOW, “Don’t Call Me Young Lady!,” is a memoir. It goes through my relationship with my mother — we did not get along. She was a gorgeous, talented woman who thought I’d inherit her looks and talent. She won the Most Useful Girl award in school, so it was my dream to win it too, and I did win it my senior year of high school. It was a validation at that time. And now I’m validated in an entirely different way, because my work is going to New York.
The show’s title is all about being labeled — calling a woman “young” when she’s obviously not young is labeling her with expectations of who she is and what she should be doing. It doesn’t fit any of us. It’s condescending! It makes me want to slap people who pretend it’s flattering.
At the end of my show, after I’ve told some very raunchy stories, I say to the audience, “Can you imagine what my mother would think? She hoped I’d turn out well, but I turned out just as badly as she thought I would. But my dad would have loved that I became a writer, a wife, a mother, a lover, a comedian — and the Most Useful Girl!” That’s when I hold up the bracelet, the audience goes nuts, and I get a standing ovation. And that’s why this charm is still my little prize.
Buck teeth, thick glasses, and my mother dressed me funny--and the kids called me Professor Pisspot.
...but I did have a funny part in the senior class play.
...I grabbed a mic, started telling stories--most of them true--and found my true calling at last.
I've observed that widowers' dead wives were saints...divorced men's undead ex-wives are bitches...and men who've never married are still looking for the perfect woman they'll never meet.
The clerk in the drugstore directed me to the Family Planning aisle, but I wasn't planning a family--I was just planning on having sex.
Fellatio sounds like the name of a Shakespearean character, but after an educational class in BJs, I'm happy to pass on what I learned.
I've discovered that a vibrator can do only so much. I want one that talks--maybe in French!
A new character makes her debut...
Watch the rest of the videos on YouTube:
First came Lusty Carolyn, a classy woman with a decidedly sassy world view...
Now there's Lusty Bangor, and no telling what she's got on her mind.
Carolyn Meyer is a brand new face on the comedy scene with a different--shall we say mature--angle on life, love, and sex. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+...and of course YouTube