“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Buenas noches, mis amigos! I am delighted to be here with you this evening because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like. Twelve years ago, Barbara Jordan, another Texas woman, made the keynote address to this convention – and two women in 160 years is about par for the course. But, if you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.” ~ Ann Richards, then-Governor of Texas, at the 1988 Democratic National Convention
The play Ann, now at Lincoln Center through September 1st, opens with this quote delivered via archival video footage of the late great Ann Richards. And though this about sums up her vibrant, spit-fire, take-no-prisoners, gutsy, straight-shooting, truth-in-comedy personality, it is nothing short of an absolute delight to see the brilliant Holland Taylor portray her on stage for two hours in one of the finest one-person shows I’ve ever seen. I was enthralled from beginning to end. Taylor also conceived of the idea and wrote the play, which I find even more remarkable than her stunning performance.
Within two hours, I learned so much about her life and legacy. I laughed. And laughed and laughed. A lot. And then I cried a little when I realized how wonderful she was, how rare she was, in politics and in the public eye in general, and how I will never get the chance to meet her in person. This play made me believe that I did know her, and that’s how everyone felt about Ann. She was exactly who she was, all the time, in front of everyone. From humble house wife to Governor of Texas, she was someone to be reckoned with and yet everyone had to find her charming, regardless of whether or not they disagreed with her. I wanted to have her over for dinner and I definitely wanted her in my corner.
She was a stronger advocate for women, all women everywhere, than anyone else in the public sphere has ever been. And though I’ll never have the chance to know her, I did take away one great comfort. Madeleine Albright once said that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. I believe that the converse must also be true. There is a special place in heaven for women who do help other women. Therefore, I’m certain that Ann Richards is looking down on all of us, cheering us on, bolstering us up, and encouraging us to fly higher than even our own dreams dare imagine. Even death can’t stop that kind of indomitable spirit. And for that I am both grateful and inspired.
Go see Ann. Two hours in her company, and Taylor’s, and you’ll walk out of the theatre and into the world a little taller, a little prouder, and a whole lot more determined to do something extraordinary. (If you’d like to read Ann’s convention speech in its entirety, click here.)