Arden Theatre Company kicked off its 2011/12 main stage season with the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. Directed by the Arden's Producing Artistic Director Terrence J. Nolen, this epic play will close on the Arden's intimate F. Otto Haas stage October 30, 2011.
The Arden continues its tradition of presenting great American family stories, like those of O'Neill, Miller and Williams, with this fiercely funny play by Tracy Letts. Describing his desire to direct August: Osage County, Nolen says "If All my Sons is a string quartet, then August: Osage County is a symphony." Today's new plays often call for a minimalist set and small cast. August: Osage County broke away from these trends when premiering in 2008, requiring a three story home to be constructed on stage, a classical three act structure, and a cast of thirteen.
Each of these characters is fully developed and alive, with his or her own transformative journey to take during the show. The play's creation under the Steppenwolf Theatre model fed the success of August., in which the actors who originated the roles had been collaborating with each other for years. Likewise, the all-star Philadelphia cast of the Arden's production have worked together on an ongoing basis at the Arden and theatres across the region, developing strong relationships and deep trust in one another's work.
The actors comprising the August: Osage County ensemble are led by Carla Belver (All My Sons, Death of a Salesman) as the matriarch Violet Weston and her daughters: Grace Gonglewski as Barbara (A Moon for the Misbegotten, Rabbit Hole), Kathryn Petersen as Karen (Arden debut), and Corinna Burns as Ivy (A Prayer for Owen Meany). Other actors returning to the Arden include David Howey (The History Boys) Eric Hissom (A Moon for the Misbegotten, Our Town), Anthony Lawton (The Threepenny Opera, Romeo and Juliet), Mary Martello (The Threepenny Opera, Candide), Paul L. Nolan (A Prayer for Owen Meany) and Kevin Bergen (A Prayer for Owen Meany). Appearing on the Arden stage for the first time are Philadelphia actor Charlie DelMarcelle as Little Charles, New York based actor Elena Araoz as Johnna, and Dylan Gelula, a current senior at Lower Merion High School as Jean.
Playwright Letts was introduced to Arden audiences this past spring with Superior Donuts, in an acclaimed production directed by the Arden's Associate Artistic Director Ed Sobel. Sobel served as the dramaturg on the original and Broadway productions of both Superior Donuts and August: Osage County, and returns as dramaturg on the Arden's production. Past plays by Letts also seen in the Philadelphia area include Bug, Killer Joe (both at Theatre Exile), and Man from Nebraska (People's Light and Theatre). Also a powerful actor, Letts has recently appeared onstage in American Buffalo at McCarter Theatre and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Arena Stage in a production slated for a Broadway transfer this fall.
A major element of the Arden's interpretation of the play is a sense of intimacy between the audience and the action that unfolds onstage. The play will be staged in a thrust configuration, so that the audience feels as though they are physically a part of the Weston household. The creative team tasked with this challenge includes Scenic Designer Dan Conway (My Name Is Asher Lev), Lighting Designer Thom Weaver (Barrymore nomination for Blue Door), Costume Designer Alison Roberts (Superior Donuts, A Moon for the Misbegotten) and Sound Designer James Sugg (Romeo and Juliet, My Name Is Asher Lev)
The final dress rehearsal of August: Osage County on Wednesday, September 28 at 8pm is open to the public as a Pay-What-You-Can performance, with all proceeds collected donated to WHYY who serves the community by contributing to the quality of life through education, information, entertainment and inspiration.