New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins Comes To Cape May Stage

By Gary Wien

originally published: 05/20/2015

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins Comes To Cape May StageMolly Ivins was a no-holds-barred newspaper columnist from Texas who had a widely read syndicated column and helped inspire a generation of female journalists.  Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins celebrates this rowdy satirist and her courage and tenacity.  

Written by Margaret (pictured on the right) and Allison Engel (pictured on the left) — two sisters who themselves have had illustrious careers in journalism — the play has its New Jersey Premiere at Cape May Stage.  The production, directed by Marlena Lustik and starring Georgette Reilly Timoney as Molly Ivins, runs May 20 through June 12.

New Jersey Stage spoke with the playwrights about the play and Molly’s place in history.

Molly Ivins has often been compared to Mark Twain.  Did you originally envision this play as something akin to the work that Hal Holbrook did with his Twain shows?  Allison: In the early planning, we did. Molly was so prolific on a variety of subjects that we originally thought of an anecdote-driven performance in front of a curtain on the Hal Holbrook model. But we quickly jettisoned that idea, and decided to write a real play that told the audience more about her life.

Does her Texas upbringing add a certain flair for the stage as well?  Peggy: Absolutely. Molly was well educated and spoke three languages, but her fourth language was Texas-isms. She loved the colorful expressions down-to-earth Texans use. They were a part of her writing and speaking.

Tell me about the play.  Peggy: The play is set in “the suggestion of a newsroom past its prime.” The audience sees Molly struggling to write a column and, as a way of avoiding writing, she looks at events in her life and career. There are some of her well-known lines in the play, but it is not a hit parade. There are plenty of laughs in the play, as she was a genuinely funny writer and storyteller, but she used laughter as a way to get people to listen to the serious topics she felt passionately about – and we wanted the play to reflect that.

The article continues after this ad


Does the play take the audience inside the world of journalists? Peggy: There isn’t a surplus of “inside baseball” information about journalism in the play. But as Molly looks at her life in newspapers, it is a chance to look back at newspapers themselves and at a time that will not come again. All of us who lived the excitement, sense of purpose, deadline pressure and sheer wonder of observing the parade of life that is the newsroom of a daily newspaper are mourning their decline. The play reflects that.

Both of you have accomplished writing careers, but this was your first attempt at a play.  What led you to choose the theatre to tell this story?   Allison: We both have had a lifelong love of theater, thanks primarily to our father, who earned an MA in playwriting from Columbia and who took us to plays from the time we were small. He worked for Helen Hayes at her theatre in Nyack, N.Y. I have an MA in screenwriting from the University of Southern California and when I lived in Iowa was the president of the board and head of play selection for the Des Moines Playhouse, one of the country’s largest and oldest community theaters. Peggy has been on the Theatre Washington/Helen Hayes board for years in Washington, D.C., and also acted in college theater productions.

Did either or both of you know Molly personally? Peggy: I had met Molly a few times at journalism conferences, but did not know her as a friend. She and I were scheduled to be on a panel together in April 2007 and she died in January of that year.  

Was she an inspiration for you as a female journalist? Allison: Yes. Peggy and I both started our journalism careers in the early 70s, a few years behind Molly, and we read her columns avidly. She was a big deal national columnist whose words were quoted regularly. We looked up to her.

In your opinion, why is Molly Ivins important to history? Allison: Molly was a liberal (and proud of it) and also a great patriot who believed in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. She felt that conservatives and the religious right were claiming to have an exclusive hold on patriotism. Molly’s great gift was showing that dissent can be patriotic. She also is important to women, as she was one of few female nationally syndicated political columnists. She was so prescient, and she did copious original research, rather than simply weighing in on the topic of the day. And she did it all from Austin, far away from the NY-Washington political axis.

Photo by Mark Berndt

For more by this author, click here

American Girl Live: An Interview With Laila E. Drew and Shelby Miguel
Please note: Due to the potential of a major winter storm on Saturday, both performances of American Girl Live at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown have been postponed and rescheduled for President’s Day, Monday, February 18 at 2 pm and 5:30 pm. All tickets will be honored on that date. If you cannot attend the new date, please contact the box office at 973-539-8008.
"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in conjunction with TROIKA Entertainment is will present KINKY BOOTS, the smash-hit musical that brings together four-time Tony® Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (Book) and Grammy® Award-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper (Tony Award-winner for Best Score for KINKY BOOTS), at Sound Waves in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City from April 30 until May 5 with two performances on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets starting at $35.00.
The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.

It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.

Event calendar
Friday, Jan 18, 2019


John Forster at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

David Massengill - Folk Concert @ Christ Congregation Church, Princeton - 8:00pm

SAL "THE VOICE" VALENTINETTI @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

The Elvis Birthday Bash @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm


Big Apple Comedy Club @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm


The Jason Bishop Show to Benefit CASA @ Pfleeger Concert Hall, Rowan University, Glassboro - 7:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.