No matter which political primary you prefer, you can’t deny Ann Richards brought a true Texas persona to the Governor’s office. That is what actress Libby Villari will portray in the nationally-touring one-woman show “ANN,” coming to Ingram’s Point Theater on May 25-26.
“This is not a very political show,” Villari said in a phone interview from her Fort Worth home. “Except for a couple of jokes, the play is not political in nature, and certainly not about particular issues. It’s more about the woman and how she came to have this fascinating life.”
Villari knows whereof she speaks, because her own life parallels that of Richards. Both came from very rural backgrounds from tiny towns in the south. Both then moved to big cities at age 11, “where my life changed.”
“I am Ann Richards,” said Villari, whose roles include the hit TV series “Friday Night Lights,” the award-winning film “Boyhood,” and many TV guest turns including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
“I have the same sensibility about politics, while at the same time we have this earthiness about us,” she said. “My sense of humor is the same as hers — outspoken, irreverent, and funny. I talk like her, walk like her, look like her, and think like her!”
The play was conceived, written, and first acted by Holland Taylor, best known for her role as the mom on the TV show “Two and A Half Men.”
Villari came to this role as a last-minute replacement for another actress. She had only 10 days to learn more than 70 pages of dialogue.
“That was pretty scary,” she said. “I had cheat sheets all over the set. Holland Taylor contacted me and said, I heard you did this with 10 day’s rehearsal. She said, that’s impossible, how did you do it? When I told her about the cheat sheets, she laughed and said, I used cheat sheets for the first seven months I did it.”
Doing a one-woman show is a challenge in other ways, including not having actors to interact with. She does have an off-stage “secretary” whose voice can be heard, and the phone becomes a character, as Villari carries on conversations with her children, Bill Clinton, Barbara Jordan, and others. But her main collaborator is different each night.
“I talk to the audience a lot, and get feedback from them,” she said. “The audience never fails me, because the play is so funny.”
Villari is thrilled to be part of what she considers the “perfect piece of literature.”
“I have the honor of making it come alive,” Villari said. “You have to be a southerner to do this. I have never played a role where I felt I become the character. She is in me, and I step aside and there she is. It is full and complete immersion, because I am so much like her and vice versa. It’s not a copy — I feel like it is Ann and she has taken over my body.”
The affinity for Richards goes beyond the stage. Villari considers Richards “her hero” because the former governor was instrumental in bringing the film industry to Texas, just as Villari’s film career took off. Though they never met, when Villari was filming in Austin, every night she would walk past the capitol and wave to Richards, who would wave back.
Villari hopes audiences will see the show as an inspiring story rather than a political tale.
“I think every single person who sees this play — conservative and liberal — leaves the theater wanting to be a better civic servant. She talks about how we should participate in politics, and the importance of voting. I have done this show in very conservative cities, and it never failed to get a standing ovation. People are going crazy for it.”
She “absolutely guarantees” audiences will love it.
“They will laugh more than they have laughed in any play they’ve ever seen,” she said. “They will have a terrific time and see an amazing portrayal. It’s not so much about me, but about this woman who is so fascinating. This will go down in history.”
Libby Villari stars as Ann Richards in the national touring one-woman show “ANN” by Holland Taylor.
Performances May 25-26 at 8:30 p.m. at the Point Theatre in Ingram.
Phone: (830) 367 5121.
Box Office Hours: Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Reopens two hours before performances.
Phil Houseal is a writer and owner of Full House PR, www.fullhouseproductions.net.
Contact him at email@example.com.