Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ann: An Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards at the Kennedy Center

It is clear that Holland Taylor loves and deeply respects Ann Richards.   Her understanding of this remarkable woman shines in her one-woman tribute play, Ann: An Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards now in performance in the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Framed as a university graduation speech that provides opportunities to provide charmingly folksy antidotes about the early life of Governor Richard, Ann: An Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards, written and performed by Holland Taylor gets off to an accessible start for an audience who may only know the subject matter from her famous keynote address at the 1988 Democratic Convention.  Holland Taylor uses this format to welcome her audience for a delightful two hour encounter with a remarkable woman.

 For those unfamiliar with her life, Ann Richards grew up in Texas, received a college education at Baylor University.  She married David Richards and had four children.   She was a teacher of junior high school social studies and history and became an earnest political campaigner working on several liberal Democratic campaigns.  In the mid-1970's she ran for her first political office as a county commissioner.   Her marriage failed and she developed a dependency on alcohol which required treatment.    Yet, she was able to rise from these adversities to become elected State Treasurer.   It was in that role that she came to national prominence when she gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1988.   In 1990 she would be elected Governor of Texas, the second woman to hold that position.

Ms. Taylor not only expertly embodies Ann Richards she is also the skillful playwright of this piece.   According to her notes in the program she spent more than four years researching and writing this play.   Gaining the trust and cooperation of many of Governor Richards friends and family members has helped give an authenticity to this work.

Wisely the lecture-style at the beginning of the play is abandoned once the subject reaches the Governor's mansion.   The set cleverly designed by Michael Fagin reveals a wonderful representation of Governor Richards' office.   From here the play genuinely gives a true portrait, warts and all, of the colorful, yet demanding Governor.   Through the aid of a few additional voice performers we get a glimpse into a busy day in the life of the Governor.   Julie White provides the voice on the other end of the intercom of Nancy Kohler, the put-upon secretary to the Governor and the give and take of these two women, interspersed with the poor souls on the other end of the various phone calls that are interpreted in a humorous, yet necessarily one-sided manner serve to create for the audience a real full-bodied performance.

Holland Taylor requires little beyond the famous white "Republican" hairstyle and a pitch-perfect Texas dialect to bring Ann Richards to life.   The audience will laugh, smile knowingly, and even feel wistful at poignant moments in the Governor's later years.    It is a wonderful portrait of a woman that clearly is a labor of love for Ms. Taylor.   Embrace this delightful performance.

Ann: An Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards written and performed by Holland Taylor will be performed in the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts through January 15, 2012.   For tickets and other performance information please visit