Sara Gaston is currently preparing to play Molly Ivins in Main Street Theater's upcoming production of Margaret and Allison Engel's play Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. Despite her busy schedule, she graciously sat down and chatted with me about the role and the woman herself.
Molly Ivins, a liberal journalist, made a name for herself in 1970s Austin by always telling the truth as she skewered oil-driven Texas politics. How did you prepare for this role?
(Laughs) That's a great little lead in. Well, I learned the words. I watched a lot of video of her, and I read some articles, some biographical information about her. But really, there is so much in the script that is her words or information about her life and what fazed her, so that was actually was the big research for me.
What is your favorite aspect or personality trait of Molly Ivins?
That she wasn't afraid to tell the truth as she saw it.
Molly Ivins was great at incorporating humor into her columns; in fact, some believe that is why she was successful as a liberal female journalist in the 1970s. How do you approach her sense of humor?
Oh, that's a great question. You know, what I got from watching the video of her is that she didn't always try for humor. A lot of times she just let the words speak for themselves. So, I've really tried to do that.
How does it feel to play such an iconic persona from contemporary Texas history?
(Laughs) Terrifiying. It's a great honor, and I'm really proud to say those words. But it is also very intimidating because she is so beloved. I guess (Pauses) I want to get it right. (Laughs) You know, I want the people who knew her to feel that I have done her justice, and I want people who didn't know her to feel like they've gotten to know her.
After Ivins passed away from breast cancer, George W. Bush, who was one of her favorite targets, said, "I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words. She fought her illness with that same passion. Her quick wit and commitment will be missed." How much of her convictions, beliefs, passions, quick wit, and commitment can audiences expect to see in Red Hot Patriot?
All of it! Absolutely, all of it!
Does knowing that Kathleen Turner played the role all over the US, including Austin, make you nervous to take on the role and possibly be compared to her portrayal?
Not really. I mean, if anything I think it is a privilege to be in that sort of company. You know, every actor approaches a role differently, and there are going to be some people who prefer her, and maybe some people will prefer me. I don't know, but that's not really anything I have control over. Mostly, I'm glad that I'm in that kind of company.
Where does Molly Ivins rank in your personal list of favorite roles?
Wow. (Pauses) Right there at the top, if not the top.
Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, starring Sara Gaston and directed by Patti Bean will run at Main Street Theater – Chelsea Market from June 14, 2012 to July 1, 2012. It has two previews scheduled on June 9, 2012 and June 10, 2012. For more information and tickets, please visit http://mainstreettheater.com/mainstage/patriot.html or call (713) 524 - 6706.
Photo courtesy of Main Street Theater.