Wednesday, April 03, 2013
AN OPEN LETTER TO HOLLAND TAYLOR, THE WRITER AND STAR OF "ANN"
I was totally blown away by Ann - the play about the late Texas Governor Ann Richards which you wrote and star in. When I talk to friends who really know how to lean in and listen, and describe you and the story of the play to them, my eyes well up and so do theirs. I'm no sap, but damn! You do know how to move an audience!
I first learned of your play while watching the CBS Sunday Morning News Show. Within the first 30 seconds of viewing the segment, I knew I had to go see Ann. It was the same gut feeling I had when I saw Eva Zeisel, then celebrating her 100th birthday, on this same show. Ms. Zeisel was a world-class, Hungarian-born industrial designer best-known for her work with ceramics and her "playful search for beauty." Falsely accused of trying to assassinate Stalin (!), she survived 16 months of solitary confinement in prison. Ms. Zeisel also narrowly escaped the Nazis.
When I saw the piece about Ms. Zeisel, and then learned she lived not far away from me, I knew I had to meet her in person. What an amazing experience it was to visit with her shortly after she turned 100.
Like Ms. Zeisel, the Ann you portray was a strong and creative risk-taker, with a fighting spirit and an awesome sense of humor. So when I saw the CBS news segment, there was that deja vu feeling of "I've got to go and see this person." And so, last week, I journeyed from Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn to Lincoln Center in Manhattan to see Ann.
Here's why I think you and your play are important now:
* It's pretty common knowledge that roles for women in Hollywood, especially after a certain age, are limited. As you said on the CBS segment, you've played your share of moms. I'm glad you took things into your own hands and wrote a role that would allow you to portray a whip-smart, gutsy female who pushed past restrictions placed on women in order to step out big time into the public sphere. You show that we women have to literally write the roles we want to play in this world. Thank you for that!
* There is a particular way that females get targeted when they venture way out into the public sphere and take a stand on important issues. The attacks are often personal and vicious. (Just ask Hillary Clinton!) I appreciate that you came forward to depict a woman who dared to step out, speak her mind, and act on her principles.
Here's what I loved about your depiction of Ann Richards:
* You showed the way Ann brought her working class sensibilities into her job as a politician - specifically, her straight-forwardness, integrity, lack of pretense, and unwillingness to sell out on her values.
* You caught the nuances of Ann Richards without affect or over-acting.
* I mostly forgot that I was at a play. I generally felt like I was hanging out with Ann Richards in her office.
* You depict Ann's simultaneous affection for but lack of deference to Bill Clinton when he was in office as President - e.g. the joke she tells him about Arkansas on the phone right before hanging up on him. Brilliant! (And the audience laughed hard here!) By the way, I saw that picture you posted on Twitter of President Clinton wiping tears from his face upon seeing you after he saw the performance. That picture spoke volumes about the power of your play.
* You refer to Ann's relationship with Congresswoman and Senator Barbara Jordan and the Lady Longhorn basketball games they went to together.
Thoughts on Your Play, Going Forward
Ms. Taylor, I hope that lots more people go see your play during its run. I hope that people of different ages and incomes and races get to go and see it. It offers hope, inspiration, and a reminder that it's possible for all of us to have big lives while holding our families and friends close to our hearts.
It is also my wish that I have the honor of meeting you in person before the show's run has ended. That would be the gift of all gifts.
Thanks for taking your vision and making it into a reality. Both your play and your personal life have had huge ripple effects, and will continue to do so.
Ms. Taylor: Like Ann Richards, you are a rolling stone that gathers no moss. Like Ms. Richards, you kick the a** of sexism and other injustices, and take no prisoners.
Keep up the good work, Ms. Taylor, as Ann looks down and smiles.
Editor, Creative Times