When Intimate Apparel playwright Lynn Nottage was cleaning out her grandmother’s house, she discovered an old photograph of her great-great grandmother.
She started at the New York Public Library and what she uncovered about her family history was woven into her play Intimate Apparel.
The photo was a mystery and Nottage was determined to find out more about “this woman who was part of the fabric of my life, but who was very much a mystery to me.” All she did know was that her great-grandmother was a seamstress in New York and that she had married a Barbadian immigrant. From there, she lept into discovery.
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PBS’s “News Hour with Jim Lehrer” paid tribute to Molly Ivins on her death by re-airing her survey of Texas Art – or “Ort,” as they say. The broadcast features Molly’s signature wit and Texan witticisms that lovingly jab at her home state.
Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins runs from Jan. 2- Jan. 31st. Great seats still available at tickets.lyricstage.com or through the Box Office: 617-585-5675.
Find more Molly Ivins: #MeetMollyIvins #RedHotPatriot on Twitter and Facebook!
Molly writes about the 2006 Texas Gubernatorial debate, featuring Governor “Good Hair” Perry. “I sacrificed an hour Friday evening to watch the Texas gubernatorial debate on your behalf, since I knew none of you would do it,” she writes. If only Molly would preview all of our debates for us.
The Not-So-Great Texas Gubernatorial Debate, by Molly Ivins
“AUSTIN, Texas — I sacrificed an hour Friday evening to watch the Texas gubernatorial debate on your behalf, since I knew none of you would do it. Democrat Chris Bell looked and sounded like the only candidate who won’t embarrass the state — he was intelligent, well informed and even funny. But the question remains: Can Texas afford to lose that hair?”
You may remember in 2001, Senator Jim Jeffords abandoned the Republican party due to the “changing nature of the party,” giving Democrats a one seat majority. Molly tackles the implications for the change on the Bush/Rove White House and assumes readers will blame Texas. “It’s often hard to discern the difference between Texas Tough and Texas Stupid.”
Shrub Flubs His Dub, by Molly Ivins
“Karl Rove, the man known as “Bush’s Brain,” would never do anything mean, dirty, petty or tacky. I say this because one of the things I have learned from Rove and Karen Hughes–counselor to His Bushness and also known as Nurse Ratchet–is that if you say something often enough, like “compassionate conservative” or ‘leave no child behind,’ the reality makes no difference; people remember only the slogan.”
Molly’s final column is a rallying cry to future generations to pick up the cause she must lay down: the fight for freedom and justice.
“We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, ‘Stop it, now!'”
Images from the life of Molly Ivins play an enormous role in Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. As images pop up in different areas of the stage, Molly (played to critical acclaim by Karen MacDonald) reacts and shares biting and hilarious commentary with the audience. We interview the designer who makes these images come to life: Johnathan Carr.
Lyric Stage: Tell us how projections/images play a role in Red Hot Patriot?
Johnathan Carr: The setting of the play is what is referred to in the newspaper business as the “morgue”, the (usually basement) archival room where old news goes to slumber. As Molly recounts her life stories both personal and professional, images emerge, mostly through use of projection, but also physical photos/objects in the scene.
LS: How were you inspired to innovate the images to help tell the story?
JC: Upon reading the play it became apparent that nearly all of the images are meant to be actual photos from real-life Molly Ivins and the people, places and stories throughout her career. I knew that would be a task, and certainly doable, but from an artistic point-of-view it didn’t suggest much original design, just research. I wanted to involve design, but didn’t want compromise the historical integrity of the photos by manipulating them too much, so instead I opted to employ the “parallax” effect (also known as “The Kid Stays in the Picture” effect, after the documentary of the same name that popularized the technique). A 2D photo can be made to appear to have depth by separating foreground, mid, and background elements while moving a virtual camera through the scene to simulate 3D.
LS: What is your favorite image used in the show?
JC: The “Austin Fun House” sequence is probably my favorite. We found portraits of the 1981 Texas legislature arranged like a yearbook and Courtney asked if I could turn it into a shooting gallery. I love my job.
LS: How did you become interested in projection design?
JC: My background is primarily filmmaking which I’ve always considered a catch-all medium that can make use of or integrate with any other art form. It’s always been my practice to work on multiple formats because the skills and aesthetics that I pick up from one form can be applied to every other. Projection design (which truthfully I’d prefer be thought of as media/film/video design, as the term ‘projection’ doesn’t quite have the same elemental quality that ‘light’ and ‘sound’ have) was a natural progression of my mission to merge all forms in my work.
It’s always been my practice to work on multiple formats because the skills and aesthetics that I pick up from one form can be applied to every other.
LS: What other shows have you designed for at The Lyric Stage?
JC: Into the Woods (2014) and By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (2013). LS: What advice do you have for people aspiring to work in professional technical theatre?
JC: The best advice for any work is to always be educating yourself, we should all think ourselves perpetual students of the world, that’s just a given.
If you live near a place theatre is being made, that is helpful. But also consider concerts, comedy shows, conventions, lectures, corporate events, fundraising galas — any live event that requires light/sound/video is a place to start learning, no matter the scale. Every theatre technician and designer I’ve known has traveled a very different path, which is really cool. Working on load-ins/strikes for pro theatre (or colleges) is one good way to start meeting theatre techs. Designing for smaller fringe/indie/community theatre is a way to start building a portfolio. And, alternatively, you could even produce your own show at a small venue (or in a festival/variety/revue) as a vehicle to exhibit your design chops under full creative control. Ambitious if you’re just starting out, but can be very effective for making connections.
Designing for smaller fringe/indie/community theatre is a way to start building a portfolio.
Generally I feel you should never repeat yourself, and always do the thing that is just outside your comfort/knowledge/skillset, Consider every project your own personal experiment, and whenever possible advance the medium. Do the research, gather many options, be ready to kill your darlings as they say, and do not take that personally. De gustibus non est disputandum. Most important is to listen to your director and your team, and also ensure they are understanding your ideas. A team with good chemistry will find a shorthand very quickly, but conversely a misperception or presumption of understanding can bring an entire production to a grinding halt. Communication is the greatest challenge in collaborative operations, exponentially so when speaking in the abstract as we designers must, so patience in achieving that mutual understanding is paramount.