KLRU engaging speaker series
Spark a conversation: Are women a force in politics? Let's ask Ann Richards
Holland Taylor did not write her one-woman play Ann, about former Texas Governor Ann Richards, in order to venerate a politician or even advocate for a more caring political system. Of course, she also doesn't mind if that's what audiences come away with.
Ann Richards, Governor of Texas from 1988 - 1992 was a complex and powerful personae, "She was simply a real remarkable person," said Taylor, "a towering personality."
Holland Taylor is herself a remarkable person and towering personality. Best known for her TV (she played Charlie Sheen's mother in Two and a half men) and film roles including The Truman Show, Legally Blonde, and Spy Kids 2 and 3-D, Taylor came up with the idea for a solo show after meeting Ann Richards one time, at lunch.
"The play is not about politics. This play is about a remarkable person who had at her core from a very young age showed a remarkable sense of fair play. She also had tremendous empathy. And then, incidentally, it’s about public service."
On Jan. 31, Taylor returns to Austin to discuss the political and public service side of Richards as part of a KLRU Spark conversation entitled "Can Women Change Politics? The Life and Politics of Ann Richards." She's joined by Dallas Morning News political reporter Wayne Slater, and documentary filmmaker Paul Stekler.
"[Ann Richards'] effectiveness as a politician had very much to do with her being female," explained Taylor. "Which is why we should all be welcoming of women who are now coming in."
In a short conversation about the KLRU show, Taylor showed more than a passing interest in politics. She pointed to two specific up and coming women in politics — New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Virginia Senator Mary Landrieu, both democrats, as was Richards.
"The most regrettable thing today is the insane cost of campaigning and the reduction of campaigns to the most ridiculous of sound bites," she observed. "I don’t know what the answer is. I know the money that goes into campaigning is an appalling waste of money, and that ain't right!"
"You can quote that," she said. "'That ain’t right' and 'What the hell?' — that’s the limit of my sophistication," she said.
But clearly there is something more going on than "what the hell." Taylor portrays an Ann Richards that is both tremendously complex and genuine. The show received rave reviews not just in Texas where teary-eyed audiences were not at all hesitant to cheer and laugh uproariously as though at a going-away party, but in Chicago and New York as well. Taylor says the show will be back in New York in the late spring or summer.
"[The play] is about public service. [Richards] wanted to get the issue of gender out. She was a true public servant motivated by the highest intentions and I want more of that, and I know she wanted women to come into politics more and to serve. The play is about who she was and if you know who she was you cannot help but get that message."
KLRU's engaging speaker series, Spark at the Moody begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31. Tickets are still available.