On August 30, 1944 Molly Ivins came into this world, no doubt shouting her dismay at the manner of her entrance. Although no longer with us, she left a legacy of exhortations to all of us to get up off our butts, make some noise, make a difference and have some fun along the way.
Molly and I grew up in the same city, Houston, Texas. She was born two and a half months before I was. I often wonder when our paths might have crossed. Certainly not at Smith College. My undergraduate years were spent at UT Austin. Certainly not in Paris. I could ill afford any semester abroad program. I spent my summers working at a paint company to earn enough money for college expenses in the coming year. Certainly not at Columbia University. My graduate degree is from the University of Oklahoma. Molly came from privilege, going to St John’s School located in a wealthy enclave of Houston; I attended Galena Park High School located within shouting distance of the highly industrialized, polluted ship channel where I held my breath on the school bus each morning as we passed a petro chemical plant.
But at some point Molly fled her roots, at least those anchored in privilege, and began to focus her sharp edged wit and intelligence on the world beyond the walls of wealth.
It was at The Texas Observer that she honed to a razor’s edge her ability to cut through the bullshit and deliver an incisive shot that would puncture the inflated ego of some political operator or cast a laser beam on an inane argument, shattering it into shards of fragmented nonsense.
It was last autumn while visiting family in Texas that my cousin gave me two of her books to read. Next I came across the play Red Hot Patriot, ordered it, devoured it and decided it was the perfect centerpiece for The Path 2014 Festival, The Artist’s Response to the Changing Landscape of Journalism & Ethics through Theatre, Film & Photography. On youtube I listened to a speech she gave at Tulane University and found her not only funny and acerbic but also compassionate and insightful. It was that speech that convinced me to take on ‘Patriot’ and play a fellow Houstonian even if we grew up in very different universes.
But The Artist’s Path attempts each year a bit more than just producing a play. My own roots in education both secondary and higher push me to offer something more substantive. Don’t get me wrong, Red Hot Patriot is a wonderful piece and I look forward to playing Molly, but I also want to offer more.
Molly Ivins made her bones in the domestic politics of Texas. She did not report from foreign lands, but from littered offices in Houston, Austin, Dallas, Ft Worth and her own home not to mention the hallowed halls of the New York Times. But I believe she would have honored those who travel to distant shores to bring us the news-- news which eventually impacts us in whatever large or small community we call home here in America.
And so Path will honor those journalists who have lost their lives while doing their jobs. Over 900 reporters have been killed worldwide since 1992. In honor of them and of Molly, we will hold a Roll Call in Remembrance in conjunction with a Symposium on the Changing Landscape of Journalism and Ethics in the 21st Century.
Molly’s biting commentary notwithstanding, she believed in digging out the truth and telling it. She skewered the powerful in defense of the powerless. In her final months of life as she battled cancer, she also battled what she saw clearly as the trampling of the Bill of Rights, co-authoring with Lou Dubois, The Bill of Wrongs.
In early January 2007 during a rare ice storm, Molly asked to be driven to a fundraiser to thank supporters of The Texas Observer. On January 31, 2007 she passed away.
Molly often said, “Good thing we’ve still got politics—finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”