Violet Crown Treasures

Pollyanna Theatre's new play brings together two of Austin's most exceptional artists and women

Carrie Rodriguez (l) and her grandmother, Frances Nail
Carrie Rodriguez (l) and her grandmother, Frances Nail

On May 12, Pollyanna Theatre Company opens I'm Not the Woman I Was, a solo piece based on the memoirs of local writer Frances Nail, performed by Austin Arts Hall of Famer Karen Kuykendall. The Chronicle spoke with Judy Matetzschk, artistic director of Pollyanna and co-author with Robyn Turner of I'm Not the Woman I Was, about Nail, Kuykendall, and what makes them both so special.

Austin Chronicle: When did you first discover the work of Frances Nail?

Judy Matetzschk: About two years ago when her book was selected as a finalist for the Violet Crown Awards. I was at the awards ceremony, [and] I looked across the aisle and there sat Karen Kuykendall. At the break between readings, I spoke with Karen, and she told me she was there to hear the work of her good friend Frances Nail. After the break, there was a brief reading from one of Frances' stories, and I absolutely fell in love with her style and the characters in her stories. I approached her that very night and asked if she had ever thought of allowing her stories to be done on stage. That is how it started.

AC: What is it about Nail's work that seems so dramatic to you?

Karen Kuyendall
Karen Kuyendall

JM: The strong emotion, especially the dry sense of humor that all of her stories have. There is a great sense of strong characters in the stories, and they are characters who are doing and saying surprising, revealing things in their everyday lives. And they are lives from a time that is gone: the Depression, the war years of the Forties, the boom of Houston's early growth, etc. It is a chance to see that history through the eyes and imagination of a woman who lived it.

AC: For those not familiar with Nail's work, what would you like them to know about her?

JM: It is important for them to know that Frances spent most of her artistic life as a visual artist. She has told stories through artistry for many, many years, but it has only been in relatively recent years that she has been recording her memories in words. And that is why I think her words are so powerful. She sees the details of things around her, sometimes the little things that others might miss.

AC: What has it been like working with Karen Kuykendall?

JM: Karen is an amazing performer. Her stage presence is very strong and her voice so expressive. Working with her in the development of the script has been a real learning experience for me. As a director, you always hope you will be able to work with actors who take risks, make bold choices, and yet have a soft and gentle heart which is applied to the words on the page that brings them to life on the stage. And that is what Karen does.

AC: What do you think makes this a special show for Austinites to see?

JM: Frances and Karen are both Austin treasures. Austin's arts community is very unique. It is uniquely Texan. And both of these women have the grace, charm, beauty, integrity, and sheer talent that characterizes what is best in Austin's women. end story

I'm Not the Woman I Was: The Memoirs of Frances Nail runs May 12-22, Wednesday-Saturday, 8pm, Sunday, 3pm, at Arts on Real Theatre, 2826 Real. For more information, call 743-7966 or visit

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I'm Not the Woman I Was:The Memoirs of Frances Nail, Pollyanna Theatre Company

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