Post image for Holland in Texas

(Pictured: Holland Taylor. Photo by: Linda Matlow)

Ann, Holland Taylor’s one-woman show about late Texas governor Ann Richards, opened recently at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre. American Theatre wrote about the show in its first iteration in Richards’s home state, when it had a more colorful title, in our May/June issue. After our recent post about the lack of political history in plays, it seemed worth revisiting the AT article to see what she had to say about it then:

GALVESTON, TEX.: “Money, marbles and chalk,” an old expression meaning “I’m all in,” has long been a folksy aphorism favored by Texas politicians: LBJ used it freely, and so did the famously frank Democrat Ann Richards, who served one popular term as Governor until an upstart named George W. Bush ousted her in 1996.

Actress Holland Taylor (best known for TV roles on “The Practice” and “Two and a Half Men”) had admired Richards from a distance, and even met her once over lunch with a mutual friend, New York gossip columnist Liz Smith. When Richards died in 2006 of cancer, Taylor found herself “unnaturally sad,” and almost immediately started planning a one-woman show about Richards.

“The idea really grabbed me by the scruff of the neck—I’d never done anything like this before,” Taylor says. Welcomed by Richards’ family and inner circle, Taylor conducted three years of interviews and research, and the resulting play, Money, Marbles, and Chalk!, will bow in a workshop run, May 14-16, 2011, at The Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston.

How does it feel for Taylor, a native Philadelphian, to portray Richards in front of her fellow Texans? “I’m kind of wild-eyed—my eyes snap open in the morning and I think, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ ” Taylor, who will wear a body suit and wig to portray Richards, has been training with a dialect coach and studying video of the late Guv.

It’s been an immersive process, she admits.

Pictured: Holland Taylor as Ann Richards. Photo: Ave Bonar

“I’ve researched it for two years, doing it every minute I wasn’t on my TV show,” Taylor says. “It’s more extensive than I could have imagined. It really took me over, I have to tell you. I feel like I’ve been shanghaied—like I had a bag snapped over my head, thrown into a pirate ship. I think someone else is involved, and I think it might be Ann.”

She trusts that her audience will appreciate how hard she’s worked: “Texans are so generous and willing to accept you on your own terms. I’ve never been treated so affectionately, and I can’t figure out why: Here’s this Yankee, trying to do a play about their darling daughter.” It sounds like the open spirit of Texas is teaching Taylor one of the secrets of Richards’s appeal.

Rob Weinert-Kendt is Associate Editor at American Theatre magazine. He has written features and criticism for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Variety, Newsday, Village Voice, Time Out NY, The Guardian, and The San Francisco Chronicle, among others. He was the founding editor of Back Stage West.