It’s long been said that everything’s bigger in Texas. And Ann Richards proved it.
Remembered as one of the most astute, progressive (and sharp-witted) figures in modern Texas politics, Richards, who served as governor from 1991 to 1995, left an indelible mark on the landscape.
Richards (1933-2006) was immortalized by actress and playwright Holland Taylor in the one-woman show Ann, debuting in San Antonio in 2010 before moving on to a successful Broadway run, a filmed PBS version and a national tour – bringing the one-of-a-kind story of the Lone Star legend to Everytown, USA.
Ann premieres in St. Petersburg this weekend, with veteran bay area actress Bonnie Agan playing the tart-tongued, stylishly-white-coiffed Democratic firebrand.
Ann, at thestudio@620, bows Thursday and will run through May 8.
“I watched Democratic conventions from when I was teeny,” Agan reflects. “And when she spoke, everybody just went crazy. She was so funny. And then later, she went on TV talk shows, so she was always this presence. This character in the world. I just admired her so much.”
Only later did the actress get a glimpse inside Richards’ finely-tuned political engine. “When I read a couple biographies, I realized she was just so passionate about civic involvement, and people participating in government,” says Agan. “Opening the doors of government to everybody. And I have that same passion.”
Originally planned for the fall of 2020, just before the presidential election, the production was a victim of the Covid-19 tidal wave that left theaters everywhere shuttered for a good long while.
Lisa Powers Tricomi was scheduled to direct. She and Agan, longtime friends, waited things out and kept Ann on a back burner. Until the time was right.
The time is right.
“You can kinda cut through all the crap when you’re working with people that you know, and you’ve worked with before, and you have a shorthand together,” says Tricomi. “She knows I’m not going to treat her with kid gloves – I’m going to tell her what I think.”
Still, acting in a one-person show is a rather daunting proposition. Agan recalls watching Matthew McGee, alone onstage in February, in freeFall’s I Love to Eat.
“I had flop sweat through the whole thing,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is what I’ve just gotten myself into. This is crazy!’”
Tricomi had directed single-actor shows before. Onstage, she says, “You don’t have someone else to play off of. So the type of focus and concentration that you need when you’re doing a one-person show is much, much different than anything you’ve ever done before.
“You don’t have time to reflect, you don’t have time to think. You cross your fingers and you jump in. It has to be like a muscle memory.”
Ann will be Tricomi’s final bay area theater project, as she and her husband Michael are relocating to Eureka Springs, Arkansas in June.
And tonight (Monday, April 24), Agan and Tricomi will both be at thestudio@620 for the Radio Theatre Project production of the live “radio” mystery/comedy Marina Del Ray.
Ann info and tickets here.
Radio Theatre Project info and tickets here.