by Holland Taylor

Ann

SEPT 1-9
Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium

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Theater fave Diane Kondrat returns to Bloomington

By Joel Pierson 
August 28, 2016

Diane Kondrat

Diane Kondrat has returned to Bloomington for the one-woman show “Ann,” opening this weekend at Cardinal Stage.

After a summer’s migration, the Cardinal flies again, as Cardinal Stage Company begins its 10th season. And what better way than to bring back a familiar face, one who has been greatly missed. Fans of Bloomington theater certainly know the name Diane Kondrat. She’s graced more stages than Glow Tape, and she shines just as brightly. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her myself, and now she’s back for another one-woman show.

This time up, she’s starring in Holland Taylor’s “Ann,” a comical profile of the late Texas governor, Ann Richards, who was always larger than life in her governance and her dealings with the press. Kondrat has the stage all to herself, with plenty of room to find her portrayal of this brash and powerful woman. I talked with her about the return home and creating “Ann.”

Herald-Times: This isn’t your first time in a biographical play. Remind us about your earlier work in “Red Hot Patriot.

Diane Kondrat: “Red Hot Patriot” was about Molly Ivins, the spectacularly funny and insightful Texas journalist. I’ve read that she and Ann Richards kind of duked it out as to who was the true first lady of liberal Texas politics. They were friends. The characteristics they share are their love of politics, their liberalism and their humor, but they are two very different women.

Q: What have you been up to on the West Coast? Any movies or TV programs coming up?

A: The feature film I just finished a small role and last week may have lost its funding mid-filming, and the last TV I did was on NBC’s “Grimm.” I keep auditioning. I am cast in a couple of upcoming shows in Portland and recently was in “The New Electric Ballroom,” a play by the splendid Irish writer Enda Walsh.

Q: Tell us about Ann. Who is she, and how do you prepare, to get inside the head of such a larger-than-life personality?

A: Ann Richards should have been president. When I watch her 1988 convention speech, for which she became suddenly nationally famous, I am enthralled by her truth, her vivacious wit, her strength. I’ve read biographies, watched videos, read the biographies of some of her closest friends (Barbara Jordan, for one), listened to her good friend Lily Tomlin talk about her. Ann Richards is an American politician you should know about if you don’t already. She took on the white guys in power in Texas and changed the face of representation in the state. She worked very hard to get women and minorities to participate in government.

Q: Any special challenges or anxiety in doing a one-woman show?

A: She’s a real person, and Bloomington being Bloomington, there are certainly people in town who knew her personally or at least voted for her once upon a time. It’s difficult to choose how much to strive to imitate and how much to let her words (much of this script is stuff Ann actually said) and feelings come through in a freer way, through someone (me) doing their best to summon up the essence of this person. Plus, I drove in to see a bunch of yard signs with my picture on them. I’m going to try hard not to disappoint.

Q: Do audience members need to be familiar with the former governor to appreciate the play?

A: Nope. Actually, those folks will probably leave the theater feeling like they’ve received a surprise gift. She had a really vibrant personality and had important things to say about American politics. You deserve to know about her.

Q: How does it feel to be back with Cardinal Stage for their tenth season?

A: I’m happy for Cardinal and I love a birthday party. I’ll watch for the balloons and flowers! The designers and the director of this show are a very special treat. Mary Beth Fisher, (the director and an exceptionally talented actress from Chicago), has brought Courtney O’Neill and Heather Gilbert in to do the lights and sets. I am very grateful and excited to feel the power of Ann Richards in the governor’s mansion, supported by the stagecraft of these fine artists.

Whether or not you’ve had the pleasure of seeing Diane Kondrat on stage, there’s no better time than now. Bloomington’s loss is Portland’s gain, and she’ll only be here for nine days of shows.

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WHO: Cardinal Stage Company

WHAT: “Ann” by Holland Taylor

WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1-3, 6-8; 7 p.m. Sept. 4; 2 p.m. Sept. 3-4; 6 and 9 p.m. Sept. 9

TICKETS: $18.95-$33.95. Available at www.cardinalstage.org

Age Recommendation: 10 and up