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Julia Sweeney’s ‘Older and Wider’ takes a final bow at the Fox and will be filmed for posterity

UPDATED: Sat., March 26, 2022

When Julia Sweeney returns to Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Saturday, it most likely will be the final time she takes a stage to do one of her one-woman shows.

After two previous monologues, “God Said, ‘Ha!’ ” and “Letting Go of God,” the actress/comic/writer is happy to let “Older and Wider” be the final word on that part of her career.

Probably, that is. The pandemic has her rethinking her future.

“Now I’m in such a different frame of mind, happily so, I’m writing and doing other things,” she said. “And I’m thinking I don’t want to do this anymore, but I’m happy that I did do it all these years.”

Sweeney, a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” from 1990-94, intended to make her live show an annual thing. And unlike her previous monologues, which dealt with heavy subjects such as cancer and atheism, she wanted these show to be more standup in style. Tight, hourlong sets packed with jokes.

Then COVID-19 hit. And as many people have re-evaluated their goals, so has Julia Sweeney.

“Older and Wider” dates back to 2018, as Sweeney was contemplating a return to Hollywood after a decade away raising her daughter, Mulan, with her husband, Michael, in the Chicago suburbs. She performed it in Spokane in 2018 and had plans to film it at the Fox in April 2020. Those plans were interrupted by COVID-19.

Two years later, those who saw “Older and Wider” in 2018 will have the chance to see the show in a slightly new form – it has undergone some revision to reflect where Sweeney finds herself now. She talks about her mother’s dementia, lessons from the pandemic and the incongruity of having a daughter who is now a football fan.

“It’s bewildering to Michael and I, who are not sports people,” Sweeney said. “It’s like she has a new language that I don’t understand.”

There also is a riff on the Fox.

“I think this is my last show, and it just accidentally happened that I was going to film it at the Fox,” Sweeney said. “And it suddenly has become very meaningful to me because that’s where I saw my first movie, I had my first job there selling tickets and popcorn, and it’s such an important place.”

What will she do next?

“Who knows?!” she said.

She’s been working on a screenplay and is really enjoying writing. She’s also open to any more acting gigs that come her way. But she also admits to being surprised at how appealing retirement looks now that her husband has fully embraced it.

“Quarantine kind of taught me how to not do so much and enjoy it,” she said. “I really am into the simple pleasures of ‘I’m going to exercise today and think about dinner.’ That’s it. And I love it so much.”

That said, “When you’re in show business, you might be retired already, and you don’t know it. People can be retired without knowing it for years in show business.”

She has a point. A Gene Hackman or Daniel Day-Lewis announcing that they are retiring from acting seems almost novel. Most of the time, actors just seem to stop showing up in things.

“I’m so impressed by their intentionality about that,” she said. “And I guess that makes you try to control things that you can’t control because of some wonderful thing you might miss, but I like the deliberateness of that. It’s like you’re deciding something.”

In many ways, putting an end to one part of her career from a stage in Spokane is fitting. It’s her hometown, a place she loves and a place where she has a large community of friends and fans.

“At first, I was really thinking of it as a standup hour, I was going to cut it down to the funniest hour and try to sell it to Netflix or something. Then, as all my shows have, it became this other thing, and then this other time because of quarantine and the pandemic, then the Fox, and it’s the end, and now it’s this whole other loaded thing … and if it turns out good enough, I think I’ll submit it to film festivals,” she said.

She’ll edit the film with Jim Swoboda and ILF Media Productions of Spokane.

“Both ‘God Said Ha’ and ‘Letting Go of God’ both went to festivals,” she said. “Who knows? It’s a big risk, but I feel weirdly confident about it.”

However things turn out, Sweeney said she is ready for the next stage of life. She’s open to whatever comes along, and it nothing comes along, that’s OK, too.

“I could really become invisible. I really, really could,” she said, laughing. “I always thought of that as a negative quality of me because I wasn’t as ambitious as I feel like I should have been, but it’s actually a benefit now because I don’t have that angst in me.”

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