A true powerhouse of acting and writing, critically acclaimed actress Holland Taylor reflects on her work on Ann in a selection from an interview with the National Endowment for the Arts. Stream Ann on BroadwayHD.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Paulette Beete at the NEA. Click here to read the interview in full.
NEA: You have alluded to your one-woman show about Texas Governor Ann Richards. Can you please talk in more detail about how that project developed, and what it has taught you as an artist?
TAYLOR: My life was seemingly taken over by Ann Richards a few months after the governor’s death. I had always admired her but had no idea how potent a figure she was for me until her very unexpected and early death. I realized I was as sad for America as for myself, and that her richness as a person was worth memorializing in some vivid way. And the only way I creatively could was by acting her. I also realized early on that to research her was to prepare to write the play as well, and one morning, in one astonishing fifteen minutes while driving to work, the five or so organizing principles and dramatic structures and even theatrical stunts of the play flew into my head so vividly that I had to pull over to a service road and sit there as the thing blew up in my brain. It has all unfolded exactly as it was conceived that morning, except I could never have imagined that I would actually capture her to the degree that has moved her friends and children. The essence is the presentation of a persona; it is not partisan or even political. The play is not about what she did, or what she said---it is about who she was. I went in search of what in her was so very inspiring and moving to everyone---men, women, children. That was the task of the play. To find it, to reveal it. The years of involvement and effort on this has taught me as an artist that what gets results is work. And more work. And never looking back.
NEA: We are celebrating Women’s History in month? What does it mean to you to be a woman artist?
TAYLOR: I genuinely don’t consciously think much about being a ‘woman’ artist, per se. (And as I have said, I don’t automatically class myself as an artist in the first place.) There may be fewer roles for women, and this is more a function of our time in history, our culture, and the current dominance of men on the writing scene. But actresses are surely as valued as men are; they are simply fewer in number. This will change as society creaks its weary way. It is not something to be changed by fiat.
As for women’s issues in the arts, I always feel the art comes first, not the message, and I draw back from polemics and politics disguised as something else. A story of a person who is a woman that is simply true reveals women more than a story designed to put forth a woman’s point of view. This is probably a matter of my personal taste more than any general truth, of which I have few to offer.