Rhonda Brown got the kind of reviews actors dream about for her work in last year's one-woman play Red Hot Patriot: the Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, and the production won a Best of Denver 2013 award for Best Political Theater. Produced and directed by Brian Freeland, it sold out at the LIDA Project and moved on to sold-out nights at the Aurora Fox. But perhaps the feedback Brown values most came from a woman in a wheelchair after a performance. "I used to party till the wee hours with Molly Ivins," Brown remembers this woman saying, "and tonight I felt like I was partying with Molly again."
Now you can, too.
See also: Rhonda Brown's kick-ass portrayal in Red Hot Patriot remains true to Molly Ivins
Red Hot Patriot opens at Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts this weekend for a two-week run and tickets are selling fast -- which isn't surprising, given the famed journalist's decades-long association with Boulder's World Affairs Conference and the high esteem in which she's held by the town.
"I feel really grateful and really blessed," Brown says. "I've never done anything quite so important before. The way people wanted to talk to me and touch me afterwards. Some people traveled a long way to see the show. One guy came from Texas. Another showed up so much Brian stopped charging him."
And playing Ivins changed Brown. "I find I get a little sassier when I'm wearing her shoes," Brown says. "She had so much confidence. She wasn't afraid to say what a lot of people think. These days nobody wants to rock the boat or say that politics suck, but it's true. She fought for people who couldn't fight for themselves. That's the thing that I love about her: She fought for people who could not fight for themselves and taught them how to do it.
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"When you're lucky enough to have an opportunity like this.... It's changed who I am. I will always thank Brian Freeland for that. It's changed my perspective on roles I get and don't get. Now I know what's mine and not mine. It's given me a lot more confidence in my own life. I keep telling people I can get older and fatter and still play Molly Ivins. When Brian called for the rights, the playwright asked if he had the same actress. He said yes, and she let us have it for free. That stuff doesn't happen all the time."
Given our fractured political scene, this is the perfect time to hear the words and wisdom of a fearless journalist who died far too early -- in 2007, of breast cancer at the age of 62. The central concept in Red Hot Patriot is a column Ivins is attempting to pen as a tribute to her tough, stubborn and highly conservative father. The script details her career and provides nuggets of information, both sad and hilarious, about her personal life. Ivins lost two lovers, one in a motorcycle accident, the other to the Vietnam War -- which she passionately opposed. She battled alcoholism. And she approached her final illness with all the humor and bravado she brought to everything else she did. She concludes with a plea to her readers to take to the streets and oppose the Vietnam War.
These days, iconoclastic journalists don't tend to work for the New York Times or for the dailies, as Ivins did. They write for the Guardian>, Democracy Now, perhaps Al Jazeera or the Huffington Post. They're deadly serious and, given increasing government harassment, they have a lot to be serious about. Ivins, a lone woman in a male-dominated field and a Democrat in a deep red state, was an opinionated, sarcastic jokester, an idealistic humorist, a columnist rather than a breaker of news. Performed by Brown with passion and conviction, Red Hot Patriot should be a goad to conservatives and have disillusioned liberals raising appreciative glasses to a woman who never lost her spirit or quit the good fight.
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The run starts Friday, November 15, and continues through November 24 at the Dairy Denver for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $15-$35; for more information, go to thedairy.org or call 303-444-7328.