Kicking ass and taking names: Kathleen Turner as Molly Ivins in Red Hot Patriot.
Actress Kathleen Turner and late liberal journalist Molly Ivins are a match made in theatrical heaven. The terms “brassy” and “larger than life” come to mind when describing both. So when Turner stars as Ivins at Arena Stage August 23–October 28, sparks are sure to fly.
The match comes courtesy of the play Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, written by twin-sister journalists Margaret and Allison Engel. Margaret, who lives and works in the DC area, conceived the project in early 2007 after hearing about Ivins’s death from friends.
“I was so upset that her voice was going to be gone; [this play] was a way to keep her alive,” Engel says. “She was prescient about issues from her perch in Texas, and also hilariously funny without being cruel, which is a trick. Even her philosophical enemies liked her.”
Turner, of Body Heat and Romancing the Stone movie fame, among others, is also an accomplished theater actress, receiving Tony nominations for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. She was the authors’ first choice to play Ivins in this one-person play, and Engel says Turner is keen to bring Red Hot Patriot to the nation’s capital during an election year.
“Kathleen is a commanding, funny, wise presence. She is able to mix outrage and humor. People who knew Molly cry and laugh when they see Kathleen re-create [her] onstage,” says Engel.
In the play, Ivins chronicles her professional and personal life, from the Texas native’s misadventures during a stint at The New York Times and her happy days at The Texas Observer, to her relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and one very special dog. Engel says about half of the script uses Ivins’s own words; she and her sister, Engel adds, know they have gotten it right when people attribute their lines to Ivins.
Though there is plenty of humor in Red Hot Patriot, the play also conveys a message important to Ivins, which Engel calls the power of one, meaning both Ivins’s belief in the importance of individual political rights and actions, and the power of Ivins herself to have a voice in national politics, writing far from the DC and New York media centers.
Molly Ivins’s voice in the play may say it best: “I put the ACLU and the Observer in my will. My legacy will be helping folks be a pain in the ass to those in power.” 1101 Sixth St. SW, 202-554-9066