A Career Of Firsts

A Career Of Firsts

In jeans, a T-shirt and a white cardigan — even with her shoulder-length brown hair — Amy Eversole looks and sounds like former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

It’s in Eversole’s voice, which has not just a distinct Texas twang but also the power and authority of a leader. It’s in her presence on the Arkansas Public Theatre stage, where she sits alone at a desk and holds court, seeming absolutely certain everyone is watching and listening. And it’s in the words, many of which are those of the late Richards herself, captured in a play by actress and playwright Holland Taylor.

“I was compelled to write this play,” writes Taylor, an Emmy winner well known for roles in “Two and a Half Men” and “The Practice” and a Tony nominee in 2013 for “Ann.” “I have made a journey I could never have imagined. But I went in whole hog, and stayed in — working hard and doing the best I could — which gave me a hint of how I’ll bet Ann Richards felt every single day.”

Holland adds that “most of the play is based on stories told to me in significant detail, including some dialogue, by the players themselves. The office scenes in the play have been created based on many, many anecdotes — though the ending, for obvious reasons, is pure imagination — about someone I do think of now as a friend I love and know pretty well.”

Eversole knows Richards well by now, too.

“I was aware of her — I guess I was in my 20s when she was governor,” says Eversole. “I imagine I would have voted for her, had it been my option to do so. But it wasn’t until I started researching her that I came to a more powerful realization of what she did. The grit she had to just step up to the plate continues to pump me full of confidence!”

Born Dorothy Ann Willis in 1933 in McLennan County, Texas, Richards knew full well the limitations placed on women during her formative years. At that point in time, there had never been a female astronaut, military commander or Supreme Court justice and only one female governor of Texas — Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who was elected after her husband was impeached on the promise of “two governors for the price of one.”

Richards barrelled forward anyway. She became Texas state treasurer in 1983 — the first woman elected to a state office in more than 50 years — and delivered a nominating speech for Walter Mondale at the 1984 Democratic National Convention — drawing as much attention for her sense of humor as her political prowess. “If you give us a chance, we can perform,” she said. “After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

Richards was elected governor of Texas in 1990, and although she served only one term, her list of accomplishments is a long one. She revitalized the economy, which had been suffering since the mid-1980s. She reformed the Texas prison system. And she kept her promise that she would make government reflect the people of Texas — female, black, Hispanic, Asian, gay and handicapped, not just white men.

Eversole says she wouldn’t have even considered auditioning for the role were not “Ann” being directed by someone she calls her “rock.” Joseph Farmer, executive director of Arkansas Public Theatre, says he had directed Eversole and acted with her, “and this feels like a match made in heaven. We inspire each other. We push each other to dig deeper. We want to make this relevant now. Ann was a remarkable woman.”




WHEN — 8 p.m. May 4-5; 2 p.m. May 6; again May 10-13

WHERE — Arkansas Public Theatre in Rogers

COST — $18-$40

INFO — 631-8988

Categories: Entertainment, Theater