Interview: Nora Hahn and Logan Vaden on ANN at The Garden Theatre

The one-woman portrait of Texas Governor Ann Richards will run through February 11th.

By: Feb. 04, 2024
Interview: Nora Hahn and Logan Vaden on ANN at The Garden Theatre

The Garden Theatre opens the one-woman show ANN this weekend at the MATCH complex in Midtown. It will run through February 11th and is a wonderful portrait of Texas Governor Ann Richards. From 1991 until 1995, Richards was the second female governor of Texas, and she re-invented politics in many ways. Broadway World writer Brett Cullum got to talk about the challenges of creating ANN as a character with actress Nora Hahn and artistic director Logan Vaden. 

Brett Cullum: Esteemed actress Holland Taylor originally wrote this show about legendary Texas governor Ann Richards. She called it an affectionate portrait and performed it herself for several years. What made the Garden Theatre want to produce this with Nora Hahn in the titular role? 

Logan Vaden: Nora and I did a show together when I was eighteen years old back in 2009. I got to play opposite her and her husband. And I just fell in love with the Hahn family. I just adore them, even their kiddos, and Nora was at the top of my mind when we started producing shows for the Garden Theatre. I'm such a fan and even the very first show we ever produced. I asked Nora to come and audition, but because of scheduling, it never worked out. Once we got to STEEL MAGONLIAS, which was our spring show last year. It did finally work out, and Nora was our Claree. 

In the meantime, I had seen the PBS broadcast of Ann starring Holland Taylor. I thought, “Oh, my gosh, what a feat!” I don't know if I know an actress that could do this. Wouldn't it be so cool if I did? Once, we were rehearsing STEEL MAGNOLIAS, and I got to watch Nora in the rehearsal room. I realized that is our Ann. I didn't say anything to her. It was filed in the back of my head, and about a week after the show closed, Nora sent me a message saying, “Thank you for allowing me to be in STEEL MAGNOLIAS,” and then she ended it with, “If you ever want to do, ANN, I'm your girl.”

And now here we are. We just happened to be thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time. So it's kind of serendipitous!

Brett Cullum: Sometimes serendipity is the way to go. Well, Nora, I have a similar question for you. Why did you press Logan here to play Ann Richards?

Nora Hahn: Well, similar story. I had seen the PBS broadcast of Holland Taylor. Sadly, I didn't get to see her do the show in person, but I mean, I grew up as a young woman in Texas during her governorship. I had always just admired her, a huge fan. But I hadn't really paid that much attention to the play. I'd heard of it, and I thought, well, that's weird. A play about Ann Richards? But okay. Then, when I saw it, man! You laugh, you cry. It brought her to life. And I bought the script two years ago in January. So I'd had it sitting on my shelf, and I would pull it out every now and then to read it.  

I asked another theater in town if we could do it, and it just didn't work out. I thought, “The Garden Theatre is pretty new, but I don't know if it will fit into their schedule. But it's the perfect play to fit into a small window and certainly with a small theater.” So, just on a whim, I said, “I'm your girl!” and he went for it, bless his heart! 

There's nobody like her, and I don't think there could be anyone like her in politics or in government these days. It's changed so much. But, my Lord, did we have a treasure when we had her. 

Logan Vaden: Producing the show, we had a major hurdle. We applied for the rights and thought we were just gonna get them. And then, lo and behold, the licensing representative emailed me and said, “Do you have an actress in mind already? And is she an equity actress?”  

Holland Taylor requires the actress to be an equity actress, which Nora is not. Nora has a day job and doesn't do this full-time. And we immediately snapped into action because I was like, “Oh, my God! They're gonna say no!” 

So I wrote a dissertation on why Nora Hahn should play Ann Richards, and that actually went to Holland Taylor's desk for her to review and read. It was Holland Taylor who approved Nora to play Anne Richards in this production, and if, for some reason, Nora couldn't do it. We weren't allowed to do it anymore because it had to be Nora, according to Holland Taylor.

Brett Cullum: One of the things that's scary about playing Ann in Texas is that we know her pretty well here. We have a good idea of her in our minds. What do you try to capture? What is the trick to becoming Ann Richards?

Nora Hahn: You know that you can't just mimic her because she was one of a kind, and her accent is an East Texas accent, but it's also just sort of a good old girl Texas accent. It's hard to get it exactly right. I wish I could. But I'm not quite there, but I think I wanna show as much as I can. You know I can't be a mimic or a mime of her. But I just wanna show what she was like. Her energy and her passion, her compassion. And you know, for folks like I said, just to have an idea of who this person was, because she was one of a kind. She meant so much to so many.

If I can emulate some of that and portray that to the audience, that's really what I'm trying to do. I have to get out of my head. I can't be just like her. I watch videos of her, speeches, and interviews all the time, but I just have to get into it. I think it was Glenn Close who once said, “You don't become the character; the character becomes you.” And so that's what I'm trying to do. 

Picture provided by Pin Lim