from Kimberly Richard at NBCDFW.com
As Linda Leonard prepares to play Ann Richards in Stage West’s return engagement of Ann at Irving Arts Center, she knows the former Democratic governor is still deep in the heart of Texans.
“I’m enlightened and pleased and proud of the fact that she’s still a legacy. She still has an impact on our society. She still touches people,” Leonard said.
One of the people Richards impacted was Holland Taylor, the Emmy Award-winning actor known for the television series Two and A Half Men. Taylor met Richards in New York City in 2004 through a mutual friend, columnist Liz Smith.
When Richards died in 2006, Taylor channeled her grief into researching every aspect of Richards’ life and crafting a two-hour one-woman show.
After playing in several Texas cities, Chicago and Washington DC, the show opened on Broadway on March 7, 2013 with Taylor playing the title role.
The show has many political fans including Gabby Giffords, Kristen Gillibrand, Janet Napolitano, Mario Cuomo, Henry Cisneros, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Dana Schultes, Stage West’s Executive Producer, approached Taylor about the gaining the rights to produce the show while it was still playing at the Zach Theatre in Austin. Taylor agreed to allow the Fort Worth theater to produce the show when she learned Jerry Russell, Stage West’s late founder, is the father of Wendy Davis, the former state senator and gubernatorial candidate. Taylor actively advised the theater throughout the production process.
Leonard is only the second person to play the role. She has countless emails and notes from phone discussions with Taylor.
“A great thing happened when we did the photo call. She emailed me and she said, ‘The hair is perfect, the costume is perfect, the shoes were all wrong. Ann never wore higher than a quarter inch heel because she was only 5’1 with her hair. I’m going to send you a picture of the shoes you need to get.’ In fact, she did. She sent me a picture of the shoes that Ann wore her first day as governor and those are the shoes I’m wearing in the show. Those were the details that were wonderful to get from Holland that are no where in the script,” Leonard said.
Taylor also elaborated on Richards’ relationships with the people in her life and those intimate details helped Leonard create an authentic portrait of the governor.
“The piece is not about politics. It’s about Ann Richards, the woman, and it is about her focus on others, her absolute belief in the positive in life, her strength and her truth,” Leonard said.