Almost immediately after the sharp-witted columnist Molly Ivins died in 2007, two fans, Margaret and Allison Engel, twin sisters and journalists, vowed to keep her spirit alive. They wrote a play drawing heavily on her decades of journalism, especially her columns mocking Texas politicians. Ivins, who not-so-affectionately nicknamed George W. Bush “Shrub,” went after big “bidness” and rogue legislators with a vengeance.
In 2010, “Red-Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins” premiered in Philadelphia on stage with Kathleen Turner in the starring role. By now there have been about 20 productions staged across the country, including several in Ivins’s adopted state of Texas. Margaret Engel, a 1979 Nieman Fellow and executive director of the Alicia Patterson Foundation, recently attended the newest production, in Boston through Jan. 31 and reviewed by Boston Globe theater critic Don Aucoin, a 2001 Nieman Fellow.
Margaret Engel would like to see more journalists turn to playwriting. “Nearly every reporter has stories they’ve covered that would make urgent and important theater,” Margaret Engel said in an e-mail, citing Lawrence Wright’s “Camp David” and “The Exonerated” by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen.