"August: Osage County" tells tumultuous family story

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Olivia Stover | Contributing Writer 

The curtains on stage lift to show the inside of an Oklahoma home. The audience is thrust into a story of drug abuse, abandonment and family trials. 

For three hours, through three acts, UA Theatre and Dance will bring the audience on a journey of tragedy and comedy in “August: Osage County.” The play will be showing at the Marian Gallaway Theatre from Nov. 14 through Nov. 17. and on Nov. 19

“We all have this lovely idea of what families should be and it examines what happens when you don’t live up to your parents’ expectations and don’t become what you want to be,” said the director, Stacy Alley.

“August: Osage County” is centered on the return of three daughters to their childhood home when their father disappears. They must also face their mother, who has had a continuing drug problem throughout their lives.

“The play is an epic sort of drama about unfulfilled dreams and this lack of American idealism that we all have,” Alley said. “I hope the audience will still want to go see their families for Thanksgiving after watching this play.”

Alley said she was not looking to reinvent the wheel, as the play was written the way it was for a reason and articulated in the way the original playwright, Tracy Letts, intended. 

Despite not trying to drastically alter the play, challenges arose while working on the production. Both the length of the play and the creation of a set posed difficulties.

“It’s dialogue-heavy and with the realism you really have to work on the timing,” Alley said. “Plus, the play is written to be done in a house and we have limited space, resources and budget to make that happen.”

Ann Marie Meeker, a sophomore majoring in musical theatre and dance and a first time actor for the UA Theatre and Dance program, stumbled upon other challenges while rehearsing.

“It’s been challenging with this one because I’ve only ever done musical theatre productions before,” Meeker said. “When you take away singing and dancing you really have to get down into the character and convey that character through the script and using just words.”

Meeker said she has had to really focus in on the character and what that character must bring to the stage. A big part of this has come from seeing how the family has made that character who she is.

“All the characters have so much that have made them who they are,” Meeker said. “I hope the audience takes away the importance of having a family, and what not having one can do to you.”

Another first time actor for the UA Theatre and Dance program, Emily McGuire, a freshman majoring in theatre, grappled with the dilemmas her character faced. McGuire’s character is 14-year-old Jean Fordham, and she said it was sad to see her character deal with so much at such a young age. 

“She’s in her typical teenager stage, so she kind of gets into drugs and smokes pot a lot,” McGuire said. “With her parents getting separated she gets left by herself and doesn’t have guidance, so she is really pretty lonely.” 

Katharina Fox, a junior majoring in German and theatre, is the third actor in the play participating in their first production for the UA Theatre and Dance program. It's a gray area in characters, she said, that gives the audience a glimpse into the vastness of people's personalities. 

“There’s a scene where one character gets on another character for only seeing things in black and white and I think this shows how the play acknowledges the gray area in the characters,” Fox said. “The play tells us to embrace all parts of people and not write them off.”

Fox also said she likes how the play doesn’t preach at the audience and doesn’t tell them how they should be feeling. To some, the play may be hilarious and to others it may seem incredibly tragic. She said it all depends on one's sense of humor. 

“I hope the audience leaves it thinking about their own relationships with their family members and who they relate to in the play and who they never want to relate to,” Fox said. “I hope they are just immersed in the story and don’t see the twists and turns coming.” 

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