Carnegie Mellon University
August 03, 2015

We Still Love "Lucy"


When one thinks of the 1950s television program "I Love Lucy," it's hard not to imagine the comedy's redheaded protagonist, played by Lucille Ball, clowning around. She was impeccable, she was hilarious and she was timeless.  

"I Love Lucy: Live on Stage" is a live action performance in which the audience acts as the studio audience would have while the show was filming in 1952. They witness the taping of two classic episodes complete with the Ricky Ricardo Orchestra and commercial break jingle singers. On a tour that just wrapped up, the iconic Lucy Ricardo was played by Thea Brooks (A 2007), an alumna of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama.

"Lucy was from upstate New York, which is where my mother's from, and was Scotch Irish. Our DNA is pretty similar so it just feels like it was meant to be," Brooks said of her attraction to the iconic role.

Ball's 104th birthday would have been on Aug. 6. The show has aired on television continuously since its original broadcast in 1951. Episodes can be watched on TV Land and the Hallmark channel and many other stations around the world.

Brooks grew up without a TV, so despite Lucy's indelible impact, Brooks didn't learn about the icon until she arrived at Carnegie Mellon.

"I imagine it was while I was at CMU doing research for clowning. My favorite courses were always movement. She and I have that in common," Brooks recalled.

Indeed it was Ball's mastery of physical comedy in her role as Lucy Ricardo that compelled Brooks to take on the character, using skills she gained as a student at the School of Drama to approach the character study.

"Lucy Ricardo is a clown character. All my clown and mask work has aided me through the years; I even teach a bit in [New York] here and there," Brooks said. "Any kind of classical training, especially at CMU, will prepare you for language and any kind of period work. It helps to hone your ear to listen to voices and cadences."

Brooks always had an affinity to physical comedy. Her ability shone through her work, even as a student at Carnegie Mellon.

 "She brought warmth, reality, spontaneity, humor and quirkiness that made her a stand out [as a student]," said Barbara Mackenzie-Wood, Raymond W. Smith Professor of Drama. "It is Thea's courage as an actor, her innate sense of humor and this spontaneity that she uses to great advantage in portraying the crazy, accident prone and lovable 'Lucy' — a role she was born to play."

Though the "I Love Lucy: Live on Stage" tour recently concluded, Brooks attributes the success of the run to "I Love Lucy's" original appeal.

"The four characters that formed the core, their relationship dynamics are still relatable today," Brooks said. "The brilliant writers of ["I Love Lucy"] came up with these circumstances that still resonate with people today, and the actors and actresses made it seem so real. Everything was so grounded in reality, or else it wouldn't have been as funny as it was. They were really experiencing every scenario. Their commitment made for such great comedy."