Lucille Ball was a gifted actress and comedian whose television life mirrored her personal life.
Her on and off-screen husband was Desi Arnaz, a Cuban bandleader.
Ball, the star of “I Love Lucy,” was also an astute businesswoman. She created the Desilu Studios, which produced her shows, as well as “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible” and “The Untouchables.”
Fans can learn more about Lucy at the Bill Heard Theatre on Saturday when “Thank You for Asking” a one-woman show, is performed.
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Actress Suzanne LaRusch portrays Lucy. LaRusch has parlayed her strong resemblance to Lucy into a career.
Here’s our Q&A with LaRusch.
Were you a huge Lucy fan?
Certainly, as a kid growing up, I enjoyed watching the show. I wasn’t a ga-ga Lucy fan. I got into it (portraying Lucy) as an actress, and became a historian on her life.
And the resemblance helped, didn’t it?
That was one reason. But my mom looks like Lucille Ball. The older I get, the more I look like my mother. So yes, the resemblance had to go along with the package.
And the red hair?
(Raucous laughter.) Yes, I’m a natural redhead, just like she was. Early on, I became friends with people in Lucille’s life. I became friends with her hair stylist, Irma Kusely, who passed away in 2008. I spoke at her funeral. She was a tough old broad. She told me a lot of (Lucy’s) secrets, how she did her hair, dyed her wigs. Lucy always said her hair wasn’t red, it was apricot.
How did this show get started?
I did the first incarnation in 1997, and then I got serious again in 2005. I did a special presentation for Luci Arnaz (Lucy’s daughter) in 2008. She saw that there was so much potential that she came on board in 2008.
How is the show structured?
I wanted to tell the story of Lucille Ball on stage. The script was based on an older Lucy giving a Q&A in a lecture hall. I loved her telling those stories. Lucie Arnaz said, “That is the way to tell my mother’s story on stage.” So she looked at the script, took out this, this and this and said, “Let’s put in this, this and this.” The more she did, and the way I said it, she and her husband (Laurence Luckinbill) offered to produce the show.
She’s directing the show?
She had hired a director for me, a friend of hers who had directed her Broadway shows. Then he got cast as an actor in a show. I had asked her to direct and she had said, “No, no, no.” I showed up at rehearsal and guess who was directing?
How long will the tour last?
The 2011 tour looks like it will go through June. The agents are booking 2012 already.
Maybe this will be the last show you’ll do?
That’s the plan. But you never know. I want to ease out of it. That’s why I wrote it as an older Lucy. She died at age 77.
What about all the iconic scenes? Are they included in the show?
We do all the scenes. But I think we do them in a more clever manner. There’s the Vitameatavegamin, the chocolate factory conveyor belt. There are behind-the-scenes stories and a couple of flashbacks where audiences get just a look at the younger Lucy.
Are you still having fun doing the show?
I look forward to every performance. Every audience is different. some audiences are more playful; once in a while, we get a more serious crowd. There are some people who want to get up on stage. I tell them, “I’m sorry dear, but I work alone.”