A one-woman show that’s all woman

Foster’s Daily Democrat — January 5, 2006

Cindy Pierce brings her comic storytelling to the Music Hall

By Ryan Alan

Cindy Pierce is not afraid to be herself. In life, that’s inspiring; on stage, it’s hilarious. Pierce, who has been called a “a cross between Lily Tomlin and Dr. Ruth Westheimer,” refers to her one-woman show, “Finding The Doorbell” as an honest story about all that arises from living life in a female body.

It’s a show for men, who say they find it instructive, as much as women, she said. As a former tomboy, she claims “dual citizenship” in the worlds of both males and females.

Her stories are graphic but not raunchy, she said.

“My mom’s 80-plus year old bridge and tennis buddies aren’t even fazed. And many of my father’s old Dartmouth classmates attended my show and loved it. These are old conservative fellas howling along with my birth story. It’s amazing to me.” She goes to the edge, she explained, but somehow she manages not to offend even the more prudish folks she knows.

“I think people don’t think it is raunchy because it is true and they have experienced a lot of the unmentionable things I bring up,” she said.

Her style? “Self deprecating, exposing, demystifying, honest and real.” She is hopeful that people take more than just laughs from her shows.

“I want them to be inspired to communicate with their partner or spouse so that they can have a more open, comfortable relationship,” she said.

She also wants them to value their own bodies and live in them, rather than starve them and obsess over them, regardless of perceived imperfections.

“I want them to see that I am a normal looking woman with a normal sized body who was lucky enough to have parents who helped me develop a value in what my body could do rather than what it looked like,” she added.

Having only gone into comedy professionally at the age of 39, the 1988 University of New Hampshire graduate brings a breadth and depth of life experience that enriches her time in the spotlight.

She is a wife; a mother of three children, ages 4 (Colter), 6 (Sadie) and 7 1/2 (Zander); an athlete; and, with husband Bruce Lingelbach, keeper of Pierce’s Inn in Etna, N.H., near Hanover.

At UNH she was a theater major, ski racer and soccer player who proudly said she graduated in the “top 100 percent” of her class.

Now, suggests one reviewer, she is on her way to becoming one of New England’s funniest comic storytellers.

And she’s doing it very much the old-fashioned way: one laugh at a time.

She has no regrets in having waited so long to find out just how much fun life in front of an audience could be.

“I was busy doing many other things, never feeling like I should be doing something else.” Pierce said. “I am a believer that everything leads to the next just as it should be.”

The universe is serving up lessons and we get them when we’re ready, she added. Having so much life experience under her belt has really loaded her material base, she said, “so I could not have given this its full power until the last few years.”

She insists that she is not doing “an act” when she takes the stage.

“It is telling my life story the way I do for friends around a dinner table, but I don’t knock over any glasses of water and candle sticks when I am on stage. I’m less of a fire hazard if I have a stage with some boundaries.”

She is comfortable on that stage.

“I do remember as a kid developing the idea that it doesn’t matter what people think of me,” she explained. She said she was strongly encouraged by her father who cheered her on in all her nonconformist ways.

“I learned quickly that if you don’t worry about what people think, their judgment and attempts to bring you down are deflected,” she said. When you do anything with genuine conviction, people are drawn to it and want to be part of it, she said. “I have gotten away with some outrageous things over the years with my conviction.”

She considers her lack of shame and her ability to make fun of herself to be her strengths as a comic.

“Self-exposure is what I am about. I also have a keen eye and ear,” Pierce said. She weaves her observations into her life constantly.

Some of the subjects she covers in her show include growing up and self-discovery, first encounters with boys, pregnancy and birth.

She believes the show resonates because, in some ways, she can be a spokesperson for the audience. She is articulating what they might be too shy to talk about. Comfort with herself and her own body allows her to pursue her new career as a comic storyteller on her own terms, she said.

If the gatekeepers of the national comedy industry aren’t interested in her show, she theorizes, she is having plenty of success promoting it, with the help of friends, on a grassroots level.

“I have freedom. It is hard work, but worth it,” she said. “I have complete confidence that I can make people join me laughing at myself. And that I am a big part of my show, laughing at myself. It helps others feel better about themselves.” Does it surprise Pierce that most people can discuss death, violence, war and more, but “body parts” and sex can make us squeamish?

“It doesn’t really surprise me as much as it makes me sad. I think my show helps people. People tell me some outrageous personal stories after they hear mine.”

Helping people find joy is a gift, she said. She is philosophical about the concept.

“I am grateful to have had the appreciation that we are all significantly insignificant,” she said. “We are all doing what we do and it matters to the people we are in our small worlds. We all just have to follow our own paths and know that each small thing we do contributes to the overall good of the world.”

Copyright © Foster’s Daily Democrat

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