May 23, 2018–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 portrays in the nationally-touring one-woman show ANN, by Holland Taylor, presented at Ingram’s Point Theater on May 25 and 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. 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, known to many 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.”
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.
“As Ann, 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, 8:30pm, at the Point Theatre in Ingram.
Phone: (830) 367 5121
Box Office Hours: Mon – Fri: 10 am – 4 pm | Sat: 11 am – 4 pm
Reopens 2 hours before performances
To keep up with Libby Villari, visit her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/libbyvillarisann/
May 25, 2018 performance at the Point Theater
Libby Villari is such an amazing actress, she makes you forget she is an actress.
It starts the minute she steps on stage as the star of ANN, the nationally-touring one-woman show written by Holland Taylor. The audience noticeably releases its breath. Because we sense we are in the hands of a complete professional who knows how to use her voice, her gestures, her expression and tone, and her pacing and inflection, to perfection. Even her pauses pack power.
Then seamlessly, Libby becomes Ann. She so completely inhabits the persona of Ann Richards, she sinuously eclipses our actual memories of the actual person.
But the most gratifying part of Villari’s tour de force is when she takes you that final, unexpected step–past the portrayal of a person, past the performing of a play, and into a reflection of our own humanity. It is no longer a story about a governor; it is a story about us.
That is Libby Villari’s true seduction–to make you forget she is acting, and that the play is even a play.