A native of Tennessee, Jane Wagner toured as a leading actress with the famed Barter Theater during her early and mid-teens. At the age of seventeen, she moved to New York City to pursue her interests in art studies. She studied painting and sculpture at the School of Visual Arts and established herself as a textile designer for various firms, including Kimberly-Clark and Fieldcrest. Her best known textile creation is the “Teach Me, Read Me” collection of bedsheets for children, which have become part of the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Wagner’s first credited writings were the teleplay and associated book J. T., an inner-city drama. The play won her a Peabody Award (1969), while the book won the Georgia Children’s Book Award (1972). J. T. also led to her affiliation with actress Lily Tomlin, who was attracted by Wagner’s humor and insightful writing. Wagner wrote scripts for Tomlin’s appearances in the television series Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In during the early 1970’s. In 1976, she wrote the screenplay The Incredible Shrinking Woman, which was performed by Tomlin. Wagner also wrote two Tony Award-winning Broadway shows for Tomlin, Appearing Nitely and The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Between 1973 and 1982, Wagner wrote seven television specials for Tomlin. Wagner was awarded Emmys for Lily, Lily Tomlin, Lily: Sold Out, and Lily for President? She also received a...
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