‘One-Woman’ show not a solo act



Andrew Bailes posed for a photo with Liz Anderson after his April 5 performance of “The One-Woman No-Show.”

By Arts & Culture Editor

Local comedian and writer Liz Anderson is currently staging her one-woman show, “The One-Woman No-Show,” and the only catch is that she is not in the show.

“The One-Woman No-Show” is an eight-part solo performance including monologues, pantomime and audience participation. However, despite it being a one-woman show, different actors perform Anderson’s show under her guidance each week without having seen the material beforehand. The show premiered April 5 with Andrew Bailes, a local improv comedian, and runs every Sunday through May 10 at the Annoyance Theatre & Bar, 851 W. Belmont Ave., featuring local performers from various theater and  improv backgrounds.

Anderson said she came up with the concept for “The One-Woman No-Show” after the realization that most successful female comedians have their own solo performance in their repertoire. 

“Every female comedian worth her salt in [Chicago] has at least one solo show in her back pocket,” Anderson said. “So I thought, ‘OK, I have to write a one-woman show, [but] I really don’t want to be in it.’ I wanted to be able to write a lot, but I also wanted an excuse to meet a lot of different people. My inside joke for this show is that it forces people to hang out with me and be friends with me.”

The production features different performers each week—both women and men—but has a consistent storyline. The show follows the idea of Anderson being a psychopath who once had a solo show that received such poor reviews she was shunned from the Chicago theater community and went into hiding, Anderson said. Anderson then imprisons the actors, and the only way they can escape is for them to perform her show and redeem her material. 

“It’s a very loose concept,” Anderson said. “It’s one of those logic scenes where if you think about it too hard it starts to not make sense, but that’s kind of the fun of it because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

Mandy Sellers performed in the production’s unofficial preview on March 29 and moved to Chicago from Toronto last year. She said she met Anderson through the Chicago improv community and was asked to be the first performer in Anderson’s new show. She did not know any of the material before her performance, which has been the same experience for each of the subsequent performers, Sellers said.

“When [Anderson] walks each new actor through, they get a sense that [the show] is split up into eight different pieces,” Sellers said. “But in terms of the actual things that I would be doing, I had no insight. I knew I’d be doing three or four monologue pieces, but I had not read any of it prior to getting on the stage.”

Sellers said even without prior knowledge of the show’s material, she was less nervous during her performance than she thought she would be.

“I often joke that I am better at cold reads than I am at memorized material, so I do have a little bit of comfort with just reading off of the page,” Sellers said. “The crowd was super warm, I had a lot of friends in the audience and mutual friends of Liz’s were there as well, [so] the audience reaction was really great. Everyone was really into it.”

Andrew Bailes, who has known Anderson since they both attended the University of Florida, performed the show on April 5. Bailes said the mystery of not knowing the material beforehand makes for a more entertaining performance for both the actors and the audience.

“You are on stage by yourself giving it your all without any idea of what’s to come next,” Bailes said. “There are words, there are scripts, but you have not taken a peek—really you don’t know anything about the thematic nature. You’re discovering as the audience is discovering, which is such a joy because it’s fun to figure that out and go with the flow and perform it as the audience is learning as well.”

Bailes said another reason he enjoyed participating in Anderson’s production was because it was a concept he had never come across previously. He believes its uniqueness will give the show longevity.

“I think it could run forever,” Bailes said. “A new person every week, it’s so easy to maintain. You can get so many different people involved from different mediums and different facets…. Can you imagine if you got T. J. Jagodowski or Mick Napier or even Tracy Letts, any of those big names? If it was able to make that big of a splash, you could really get those names involved, and I think it would make for a really awesome night of entertainment.”