Kathleen Turner Will Be Molly Ivins in World Premiere, Red Hot Patriot

By Kenneth Jones
12 Dec 2009

Kathleen Turner
Kathleen Turner
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Philadelphia Theatre Company will premiere Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel, to feature Tony Award nominee Kathleen Turner as the fiery political columnist.

The new one-woman drawing on the words of the late Texas-bred writer will be directed David Esbjornson. The play takes the slot of the previously announced Mauritius, and will run March 19-April 18, 2010.

According to PTC, "In Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, Kathleen Turner portrays the unsinkable Molly Ivins, the famously brassy newspaper columnist and best-selling author. A true Texas original, Ivins was a sharp-tongued wit who skewered the political establishment and the 'good ole boys' with her unforgettable humor and wisdom. Written by twin sisters, themselves longtime journalists, the play celebrates Ivins' courage and tenacity even when it seemed like a complacent America wasn't listening."

"We are thrilled at the happy and unexpected opportunity to produce this new play that celebrates the life of one of journalism's most colorful and iconic figures," Sara Garonzik, PTC's producing artistic director, said in a statement. "We are especially delighted to be working with the brilliant Kathleen Turner. With her high-profile stage, film and television career, it is rather miraculous that this window of opportunity has opened in her schedule, permitting her to devote time to developing a new play. When we learned of it, we seized the moment, even though it meant postponing our production of Mauritius, a play we hope to produce in another season."

Ivins' column was syndicated in over 350 newspapers nationwide. Her voice was developed in the early 1970s as the co-editor of the profane bi-weekly political paper The Texas Observer, which remained her spiritual home. She coined the nickname "Shrub" for George W. Bush, the subject of her two best-selling books: "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and "Bushwhacked."

Molly Ivins
A graduate of Smith College, she began her newspaper career at the Houston Chronicle and Minneapolis Tribune (now the Star Tribune). She worked at The New York Times for five years before moving back to Texas to work at the Dallas Times Herald and then The Fort Worth-Star Telegram. She also wrote for Esquire, Atlantic Monthly and The Nation. She died in 2007 after a battle with breast cancer.

Arena Stage had an early hand in the development process of Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, hosting a workshop and producing an invited reading in August 2009 with Kathleen Turner.

Turner last appeared on Broadway as Martha opposite Bill Irwin in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, earning her second Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Play and an Olivier nomination during its London run. She also received a Tony nomination for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Other Broadway successes include Indiscretions and The Graduate. Turner first came to national prominence following her role in the movie "Body Heat" with William Hurt. She subsequently won two Golden Globe Awards for "Romancing the Stone" and "Prizzi's Honor," and an Academy Award nomination for "Peggy Sue Got Married." Her two other partnerships with Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito ("The Jewel of the Nile" and "War of the Roses") were also box office hits.

Esbjornson directed the Broadway production of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? by Edward Albee and The Ride Down Mt. Morgan by Arthur Miller, at The Public Theater.

Playwright Margaret Engel directs the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the oldest journalism writing fellowship program, and helped create the Newseum in Washington, DC. A former Washington Post reporter, she is the co-author with her husband, Bruce Adams, of three guidebooks about baseball in America. Co-playwright and twin sister Allison Engel is the director of communications at the University of Southern California. She has co-authored, with Margaret, three editions of "Food Finds: America's Best Local Foods and the People Who Produce Them," a compendium of regional food products, which has also spawned a television show on The Food Network.

Philadelphia Theatre Company's season also includes the world premiere of Terrence McNally's Golden Age on Jan. 22-Feb. 14, 2010, which then moves on to The Kennedy Center; and August Wilson's first major play Ma Rainey's Black Bottom on May 21-June 13, 2010.

Single tickets for Red Hot Patriot will go on sale after Feb. 1, 2010.

For more information on Philadelphia Theatre Company, call (215) 985-0420 or visit PhiladelphiaTheatreCompany.org.