Gillibrand and Taylor were joined by Amber Moslyn, chairperson of Annie’s List, a Texas coalition that supports women candidates across the state. In the spirit of “Off the Sidelines,” the women talked about Governor Ann Richards’ legacy for women’s involvement in government at all levels, and, in a wider scope, Richards’ legacy for living a better life.
In the play “Ann,” which Taylor (pictured above) wrote and is currently performing on Broadway, the character of Governor Richards declares one of her greatest accomplishments in office was “our promise that we would put together a government of citizens—that for once looked like the population of the state! Where there would be no persons in all of Texas who didn’t see others serving in office who looked just—like—them.” Moslyn noted in the video chat that during Richards’ term of office from 1991 to 1995, she made 2,400 appointments, of which 44% were women, 20% were Hispanic, and 14% were African American. Ann told people not to be afraid to get out and do something, Moslyn said. “Don’t wait till you’re 110% qualified.”
Gillibrand stressed that advocacy and support are just as important as running for office. “We need your voice,” she said. “Participate on whatever level you feel comfortable with.”
Quoting from the play, Taylor noted Richards would have said, “I don’t understand people who turn their back on it all—because the government is the most pervasive institution in our lives—and if you don’t participate, you are letting other people make some big old decisions for you.”
As a writer, I was interested in hearing how Taylor came to write the play and what methods she used in her writing. When asked about her inspiration for the play, Taylor said she’d always admired Richards from afar, and when the governor died, she wanted to do something creative about her. As Taylor was driving to work six years ago, she had a vision that she needed to perform Richards in a play because live theater was the only way to fully depict Richards’ energy and gift for communication. As she drove, ideas for the play started coming so fast she had to pull off the road. “That was real inspiration,” Taylor said.
As she did research about Richards, Taylor said she was “not looking for a whole history of her, but her persona.” As a result, about 15% of the play is actual quotes from Richards.
Most of all, Richards wanted people to respond to their core and act on what was important to them, Taylor said. As the Richards character says in the play, “Take that chance on your dreams and bet on yourself—and just trust your wings will catch the wind.”
I hope Taylor will bring the play to the Baltimore-Washington area, where I live, because after reading it and hearing the discussion, now I really want to see it performed.
Photo from Dreamstime