PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Doug Wright, Fleshing Out Real People in Hands On a Hardbody

By Kenneth Jones
20 Mar 2013

Jay Armstrong Johnson, Allison Case and Hunter Foster in the 2012 La Jolla Playhouse production.
photo by Kevin Berne

What strikes you as specifically "Texan" about this story? Or what of Texas did you bring to the musical?
DW: Texans are born raconteurs, and they're compulsively friendly. Hands on a Hardbody is the story of a die-hard, even cut-throat competition, but ironically, the competitors in the story wind up becoming friends. That, I think, is indicative of something innate in the Texas character; our politics may be crazy sometimes, but our generosity of spirit is contagious.

Remind me — how deep is your history in Texas? Are there generations of Texas Wrights? And were trucks in your DNA?
DW: My grandparents and cousins lived in Lubbock, TX, and I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas. I was a theatre kid; I've never driven a truck in my life. We had an old 1969 dark blue Lincoln Continental with "suicide doors" that I used to drive to high school; her name was Bessie. But there was always something seductive about the trucks that would lumber through the neighborhood or on the highway; even in big city Dallas, folks still wear boots and cowboy hats without irony. A truck is a symbol of down-home, no-frills authenticity.

When did you leave Texas? And you ever miss the barbecue?
DW: I left to go to college, but still return a few times a year to visit family. And I do miss the barbecue; Peggy Sue's and Sonny Bryan's are my favorites.