Texas state treasurer Ann Richards was a virtual unknown when she addressed the 1988 Democratic National Convention. The resulting speech, which included the line that George H.W. Bush was “born with a silver foot in his mouth,” was a phenonoma, and propelled Richards to unexpected political stardom. Two years later, she was elected governor of Texas and was a player on the national scene.
“Ann was passionate about politics, but she never expected to be the horse in the race,” says actress Libby Villari. “Then she discovered how much she loved to run.”
Villari stars in “Ann,” the Richards bio-drama playing Sonoma’s Andrews Hall May 17-21. The Sonoma Arts Live production is directed by Tony-winner Sharon Benge.
The one-woman show was written and performed by Emmy Award-winning playwright, who was nominated for a Best Actress Tony for the role in 2013. Villari, perhaps best known for her TV role in “Friday Night Lights,” took on the role earlier this year in a Shreveport production. The portrayal, with all its energy, wit and political savvy, was an uncanny likeness, and a smash hit.
“We had to say ‘yes’ when Villari came to us with “Ann,” said Sonoma Arts Live Executive Artistic Director Jaime Love. She fits perfectly with the season’s theme, Women Who Dare.
Richards was a Texas liberal with a progressive streak, an outspoken feminist armed with a biting wit. She popularized the line, “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”
The attitude appealed to Love.
“Sonoma is full of bold women and girls digging in and making a difference,” Love continued. “’Ann’ is here to recharge us. What the real Ann Richards gave women was encouragement, with the accent on courage.”
A self-described “Tarhill and hick” from North Carolina, Villari has appeared in more than 35 films, including “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “Boys Don’t Cry.”
The one-woman show actually has a second voice, that of Libby Oberlin. Sonoma Arts Live Education Director and owner of The Theater School, Oberlin provides the off-stage voice of Richards’ indispensable executive assistant, Nancy Kohler. For her role on SAL’s 2015 production of “Proof,” Oberlin’s was voted Best Individual Performance in the Sonoma Valley Sun Readers Poll.
“We can’t wait to showcase more dynamic, amazing women who dare,” Love said.
“Ann” runs evenings at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 17-21, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, May 22. Sonoma Community Center, 276 East Napa Street, Sonoma. Tickets and more information at Sonomaartslive.org or 866.710-.8942.