I’ve seen the future. Her name is Lynn Ruth Miller. That’s not hyperbole. I’ve just met a woman who inspires me to believe that female performers do not have a shelf life.
Lynn Ruth Miller is a 77-year-old firecracker, with a sharp wit and an even sharper intellect. Back in November, we shared a lineup, and my jaw dropped to see her unabashedly sing, dance, perform standup comedy – and even do a faux strip tease while belting out a parody of Rod Stewart’s “Do you think I’m sexy?” I was not astonished because it’s inappropriate for a 77-year-old woman to do such things, but rather because it’s damn appropriate for talent to have no age limits. And it’s a shame we do not often apply that truth to women.
Where can I look to find cultural messages supporting the idea that women are allowed to age on stage? In all my years as Revolva, I can tell you: almost nowhere. I couldn’t even count the number of men I’ve seen, with a full head of gray hair, in the spotlight, doing something funny. I could count the number of older female variety acts I’ve seen – on one hand.
I had lunch with Lynn Ruth today, and hearing a bit of her story, I realized that over the course of her life, many people have told her she couldn’t (or shouldn’t) do what she’s doing. At some key point, her own voice just took precedence over all the others. She has two advanced degrees. She’s authored a collection of books. At age 71, she decided to segue her love for story telling into standup comedy. And she’s fu*(%ing hilarious.
It is not easy to swim against cultural conditioning. So I want to acknowledge how much soul and strength it takes to do things despite mass opinion and not because of it. If I had a trumpet, I’d totally blow it in Lynn Ruth’s honor.
There’s a theory that breaking the “four minute mile” wasn’t possible until Roger Bannister ran a race in world record time in 1954. Having an example makes the impossible attainable. Ladies, if you have a talent, please take a cue from Lynn Ruth, and do the world a favor: stay up there on stage and break the age barrier.
Check out Lynn Ruth Miller’s upcoming shows, from the Bay Area to Edinburgh Fringe Festival at http://lynnruthmiller.net/