Jodi Eichelberger BA ’93
As the Lewis & Clark overseas study program celebrates its 50th year, six alumni reflect on their life-changing journeys. Learn more about Jodi Eichelberger BA ’93 below and then browse other alumni stories.
From: Idaho (via California and North Dakota)
Overseas Program: London, 1992
Currently: Puppeteer on the TV Show LazyTown, New York and Iceland
A big fan of the Muppets throughout childhood, Jodi Eichelberger applied to Lewis & Clark hoping to get into the theatre department’s puppetry program. Unfortunately, the program was discontinued that year. Fortunately, the college offered an overseas study program in London. “As soon as I heard about that, I knew I wanted to be part of it,” says Jodi. “My semester in London affirmed for me that I wanted to have a career in the performing arts. It was absolutely the most important part of my studies at Lewis & Clark.”
In London, Jodi maximized his exposure to theatre by getting creative with his meal stipend. “I used about 10 percent of it for oatmeal, beans, and rice,” he says, “and spent the rest on tickets to shows.” During that semester, he got to see performances by giants such as John Malkovich and Alfred Molina, as well as countless quirky street artists. One night, overcome with emotion during a particularly moving performance of Les Misérables at the Palace Theatre, Jodi recalls, “I turned to a friend and said, ‘You know, I could do this. I could spend a year getting into musical theatre.’” The friend replied, “Well, you might need more than a year.” As it turns out, says Jodi, the friend was right. It took 11 years, but Jodi finally had his opening night on Broadway in the original cast of Avenue Q.
My semester in London…was absolutely the most important part of my studies at Lewis & Clark.
Jodi’s road to Avenue Q included a music degree from Lewis & Clark; an artistic directorship with Portland’s Tears of Joy Theatre; numerous productions with his own company, Other Hand Productions; and the realization of a childhood dream: the role of a Muppeteer on the film Elmo in Grouchland.
Avenue Q won three Tony Awards in its debut year, but Jodi had already moved on. Today, he splits his time between New York and Iceland, where he works as a puppeteer on LazyTown, a children’s television show that is broadcast to more than 100 countries worldwide.
A writer in his free time, Jodi is compiling a collection of essays based on his experiences. The working title, Audience of One, is inspired by an evening during the London program, when he found himself the sole audience member at a one-man ballet of Wuthering Heights. “You can’t make something like that up,” he says. “The inspiration I drew from all the performances I saw in London, from the best to the most bizarre, has nourished my creative life ever since. It’s 20 years later, and I’m still writing about it.”
Read about how other alumni were influenced by their overseas experiences:
Overseas Program: India, 2001
Overseas Program: Israel, 1980
Overseas Program: Denmark/Greenland, 1983
Overseas Program: Japan, 1962
Overseas Program: East Africa, 1998