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August: Osage County

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Written by  Tracy Letts
Original language  English
Playwright  Tracy Letts
Composer  David Singer
4.2/5 Goodreads

Date premiered  June 28, 2007
First performance  28 June 2007
Genre  Black comedy
Awards  Pulitzer Prize for Drama
August: Osage County t2gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcQoOswRzIo6Xj5hd
Place premiered  Steppenwolf Theatre Company Chicago, Illinois
Subject  A family is forced to confront its past and present.
Setting  A large country home outside Pawhuska, Oklahoma
Characters  Violet Weston, Beverly Weston, Mattie Fae Aiken
Similar  Tracy Letts plays, Musicals

August: Osage County is a black comedy play by Tracy Letts. It was the recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago on June 28, 2007, and closed on August 26, 2007. It had its Broadway debut at the Imperial Theater on December 4, 2007, and the production transferred to the Music Box Theatre on April 29, 2008. The Broadway show closed on June 28, 2009, after 648 performances and 18 previews.


The show made its UK Debut at London's National Theatre in November 2008. A US national tour began on July 24, 2009, with its first performance at Denver's Buell Theatre.

In 2013, it was adapted and brought to stage by Taiwanese Greenray Theatre, the story and characters remained unchanged, except the plot took place in a Taiwanese family.

August osage county tracy letts tony award speech


The action takes place over the course of several weeks in August inside the three-story home of Beverly and Violet Weston outside Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

The play opens with Beverly Weston, a once-famous poet, interviewing Johnna, a young Cheyenne woman, for a position as live-in cook and caregiver for his wife Violet, who is being treated for mouth cancer due to heavy cigarette use for most of her life. Violet is addicted to several different kinds of prescription drugs and exhibits paranoia and mood swings. Beverly, who freely admits that he is an alcoholic, lightly converses about Violet's current problems, most of which Beverly concedes are the result of personal demons too powerful to be cured by drugs. Violet enters the scene clearly affected by her drugs. After an incoherent and combative argument with Beverly, Violet returns upstairs. Beverly hires Johnna, lends her a book of TS Eliot's poetry, and continues to drink.

Act One
Several weeks later. Beverly Weston has not been seen for five days. Several family members have gathered in the house to provide support for Violet including her daughter Ivy, her sister Mattie Fae and Mattie Fae's husband Charlie. When Violet is not making calls attempting to track down her husband or popping pills, she spends the time sniping at her family, particularly Ivy, whom she criticizes for her mode of dress and lack of a romantic life. The news comes that Beverly's boat is missing, furthering the fear that he has committed suicide. Ivy's older sister Barbara arrives from Boulder, Colorado with her husband Bill and 14-year-old daughter Jean. Barbara has not visited her mother in several years, and has mixed feelings about returning to the house because of the confrontational nature of their relationship. They fall into an argument almost immediately, during which Violet accuses her of abandoning her family and breaking her father's heart.

Later in the evening, Jean bonds with Johnna after the older woman allows her to smoke some marijuana in her room. She confides to Johnna that her parents are separated and are attempting to hide the fact from the family. Bill and Barbara argue over the cause of their separation as they make a bed out of the fold-out sofa in the living room: Bill is sleeping with a much-younger woman, one of his students at the university where he teaches. At five AM, the local sheriff, Deon Gilbeau (Barbara's high school boyfriend) rings the doorbell and breaks the news that Beverly has been found drowned. Barbara goes to identify the body as Violet comes downstairs in a drug-addled fog. The act ends with her spiraling into confusion.

Act Two
Several days later. The family has come from Beverly's funeral. Violet spends a quiet moment alone in Beverly's office, bitterly reproaching him for leaving her, and takes some more pills. Before the memorial dinner prepared for the family by Johnna, several family arguments and scenes arise. Ivy and Barbara's sister Karen has flown in from Florida with her new fiancé and can talk about nothing except her wedding plans, distressing Barbara. During an argument with her mother and Mattie Fae, Ivy unwittingly confesses that she is seeing someone romantically but refuses to say who. Mattie Fae and Charlie's son Little Charles has overslept and missed the funeral. His father is sympathetic but Mattie Fae is, as usual, rude to and critical of her son. Karen's fiancé Steve discovers that Jean is a pot-smoker and offers to share his stash with her, lewdly flirting with the teenaged girl. In a private moment, it is revealed that Ivy's lover is actually Little Charles, her first cousin.

Dinner is served, and Violet begins insulting and needling all of her family members. After inappropriately discussing Beverly's will at the table, she cruelly exposes Barbara and Bill's separation. When Barbara starts to fight back, Violet tauntingly reveals the full extent of her addiction, and the tensions develop into a violent confrontation, culminating in Barbara physically attacking her mother. After family members separate them, Barbara takes control of the situation, ordering that the family raid the house to discover all of Violet's hiding places for her pills.

Act Three
Several hours later things have calmed down, but the pain of the dinner confrontation has not gone away. Barbara reports that Violet's doctor thinks she has brain damage, and the three sisters share a drink in their father's study, discussing their mother. Ivy reveals that she and Little Charles are planning to run away to New York, and refuses to acknowledge the need for someone to take care of Violet. She reveals that it was Violet, not Beverly, who was heartbroken when Barbara left Oklahoma. Violet enters, now more coherent and off her drugs but no less incorrigible, is resigned to dealing with her demise on her own terms. She discusses a depressing story from her childhood with her daughters. In a private moment, Barbara and Violet apologize to each other, but it is uncertain how long the peace will last.

Mattie Fae observes a tender moment between Little Charles and Ivy, and begins taunting him again when the ever-patient Charlie finally loses his temper with his wife, berating her for her cruelty to her own son and promising her that unless she can find a way to be kind to Little Charles, he is going to leave her. The lecture is accidentally overheard by Barbara, who confirms when pressed that Little Charles and Ivy are lovers. She is shocked when Mattie Fae reveals that Little Charles is not just Ivy's first cousin but also her half-brother, the result of a long-ago affair between Mattie Fae and Beverly. Mattie Fae refuses to tell Ivy or Little Charles the truth, leaving it up to Barbara, who knows that the news will destroy Ivy, to find a way to end the incestuous affair.

Late that night, Steve and Jean share a joint, and before long, Steve attempts to molest Jean. Johnna walks in on the scene and attacks Steve with a shovel; the noise brings Jean's parents and Karen to the scene. An ugly argument follows when Jean defensively lashes out at her parents with hurtful comments about her father's affair, and Barbara slaps her. Karen leaves with Steve, choosing to lie to herself and mistakenly blaming Jean for what happened. Bill elects to return to Boulder with Jean and admits, when Barbara confronts him, that he is not going to come back to her. He leaves as Barbara tells him she loves him.

Two weeks pass. Barbara, now drinking heavily, offers Johnna a chance to quit and leave the toxic environment of the Weston house, but she chooses to stay. Sheriff Gilbeau drops by the house with the news that Beverly had stayed at a motel shortly before he committed suicide. He and Barbara nearly share a tender moment, but she is too emotionally exhausted and drunk to consummate it.

Several days later, Ivy has dinner with Barbara and Violet. Ivy attempts to tell her mother, over Barbara's objections, of her plans with Little Charles but Violet suddenly confesses that she already knows that Little Charles is Beverly's son. Ivy recoils in shock and horror, rebuffing Barbara's attempts to comfort her, and says that she will never tell him and leaves for New York anyway. Violet calmly reveals that she has deliberately destroyed Ivy and Charles' affair, which she knew of the entire time. Barbara and her mother have one last angry confrontation during which Violet blames Barbara for her father's suicide. Violet also reveals his suicide might have been preventable since she knew which motel he stayed in the night he left the house. Barbara, realizing that her Mother has slipped beyond her help, leaves the house. Violet breaks down and is left only with Johnna, who ends the play with a quotation from a T.S. Eliot poem: "This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends."


Beverly Weston
The father of the Weston family, aged 69, an alcoholic and washed-up poet. His mysterious disappearance one evening and eventually discovered death are the reasons for the family's reunion. The reasons for his implied suicide are a major plot point that bring some of the family's dark past painfully back into the light.
Violet Weston
The mother of the Weston family, aged 65. Undergoing treatment for oral cancer, she is addicted to several prescription drugs, mostly depressants and narcotics. After an ugly rant at Beverly's funeral dinner, the family's focus shifts to keeping her clean. Despite her drug-induced episodes, she is sharp-tongued and shrewd; she is aware of the family's many secrets and not hesitant to reveal them for her own benefit.
Barbara Fordham
The oldest daughter of the Weston Family, age 46. Mother of Jean and wife of Bill, though they are currently separated. She is a college professor in Boulder, Colorado. She wants to save her marriage, but has the intense need to control everything around her as it falls apart.
Ivy Weston
The middle daughter of the Weston family, age 44. The only daughter to stay in Oklahoma, she works as a librarian at the local college, and her calm and patient exterior hides a passionate woman who is gradually growing cynical. She is secretly having an affair with her "cousin", Little Charles, and plans to move to New York with him.
Karen Weston
The youngest daughter in the Weston family, age 40. She is newly engaged to Steve, whom she considers the "perfect man", and lives with him in Florida, planning to marry him soon. Karen can talk of little else but her own happiness even at her father's funeral, and she clearly chooses to lie to herself about her sleazy fiancé rather than face the reality of not getting a happy ending.
Bill Fordham
Barbara's estranged husband and Jean's father, age 49. A college professor, he has left his wife for a younger woman named Cindy, one of his students, but wants to be there for his family. His marriage is disintegrating and his patience is slowly running thin.
Jean Fordham
Bill and Barbara's smart-tongued 14-year-old daughter. She smokes pot and cigarettes, is a vegetarian, loves old movies, and is bitter about her parents' split. She is a molestation victim at the hands of her future uncle Steve, but reacts violently to Johnna coming to her rescue.
Steve Heidebrecht
Karen's fiancé, age 50. A businessman in Florida (whose business, it is hinted, centers around the Middle East and may be less than legitimate), and not the "perfect man" that Karen considers him. He flirts with Jean throughout the play, supplies her with marijuana, and molests her.
Mattie Fae Aiken
Violet's sister, Charlie's wife and Little Charles' mother, age 57. Just as jaded as her sister, Mattie Fae constantly belittles her son and antagonizes her husband. Eventually she reveals the major plot point that Beverly, not Charlie, is the real father of Little Charles.
Charlie Aiken
Husband of Mattie Fae and the presumed father of Little Charles, age 60. Charlie, a genial man, was a lifelong friend of Beverly. He struggles to get Mattie Fae to respect Little Charles.
"Little" Charles Aiken
Son of Mattie Fae and Beverly, 37 years old—but, like everyone else, he believes Charlie is his father. Unemployed and clumsy, his mother calls him a "screw-up", which may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. He is secretly having an affair with Ivy, who is revealed to actually be his half-sister.
Johnna Monevata
A Cheyenne Indian woman, age 26, whom Beverly hires as a live-in housekeeper shortly before he disappears. Violet is prejudiced against her, but she wins over the other family members with her cooking skills, hard work, and empathy. Johnna is the silent witness to much of the mayhem in the house.
Sheriff Deon Gilbeau
A high-school classmate and former boyfriend of Barbara's, age 47, who brings the news of Beverly's suicide to the family.


The show was originally produced on August 12, 2007 by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company at the Downstairs Theatre in Chicago. The Broadway production began previews on October 30, 2007, at the Imperial Theatre only days before the 2007 Broadway stagehand strike on November 10 which temporarily closed most shows on Broadway. The strike continued through the official opening date of November 20, forcing the show to re-schedule its December 4 opening. The Broadway show closed on June 28, 2009, after 648 performances and 18 previews. The Broadway debut used much of cast from Steppenwolf in Chicago, and opened to receive wide acclaim. The production, originally slated to close on February 17, 2008, was extended for three weeks to March 9 after the strike, and later extended to April 13, 2008, when it was subsequently given an open-ended commercial run.

Both the Steppenwolf and Broadway productions were directed by Anna D. Shapiro, featuring scenic design by Todd Rosenthal, costume design by Ana Kuzmanic, lighting design by Ann G. Wrightson, sound design by Richard Woodbury, original music by David Singer, dramaturgy by Edward Sobel, dialect coaching by Cecille O'Reilly, and fight choreography by Charles Coyl. Both productions were stage managed by Deb Styer, with Jane Grey joining the New York company. August: Osage County made its UK debut at London's National Theatre in November 2008. Additionally, a US National Tour was launched at Denver's Ellie Caulkins Opera House on July 24, 2009 with Estelle Parsons portraying the role as Violet. This production went on to tour throughout the country. The play made its Israeli debut at the Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv in January 2009 starring Gila Almagor. The play made its Puerto Rican debut at the Rene Marquez Theater Hall of the Luis A. Ferre Performing Arts Center in San Juan in March 2009 starring Gladys Rodríguez.

It also was presented in Australia, at the Arts Centre Playhouse, Melbourne, produced by the Melbourne Theatre Company, and starring Robyn Nevin, from 23 May to June 27, 2009. The play had its German premiere in Mannheim at the Nationaltheater (October 31, 2008) under the title "Eine Familie" (German for "A family"), directed by Burkhard C. Kosminski. The Austrian premiere in Vienna, in the Akademietheater from October 31, 2009, onwards was staged by the Latvian director Alvis Hermanis and featured Kirsten Dene in the role of Violet Weston. The play has been translated into Spanish and premiered in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the Teatro Lola Membrives, starring Norma Aleandro and Mercedes Morán. It ran there for more than a year, with frequent sold-out houses. The play made its Swedish debut at Göteborg City Theatre. Opening Night on January 29, 2010, starring Ann Petrén, and its Danish at the Betty Nansen Theatre in Copenhagen. It was due to premiere in Montevideo by mid-2010, at the Teatro El Galpón. August premiered on April 29, 2010 in Lima, at the Teatro La Plaza – Isil, starring Claudia Dammert. The Catalan play premiered on November 25, 2010 in the Catalan National Theatre (Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, Barcelona) with great success. It was renewed for another season during 2012. The cast included Anna Lizaran as Violet and Emma Vilarasau as Barbara. The Steppenwolf Theatre Company opened a production in Sydney in conjunction with the Sydney Theatre Company in August 2010.

The amateur debut of the play was made by Hingham High School in Hingham, Massachusetts, on May 4, 2012, and was followed by a production at the Hawken School Hawken Players Society production, on November 7–10, 2013. The New Zealand premiere of the play was presented by Auckland Theatre Company in September 2010, starring Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Stuart Devenie and Nancy Brunning and directed by Colin McColl. The Wellington production opened at Circa Theatre on April 1, 2011, with Jennifer Ludlam reprising the role of Violet. In April 2014, the play premiered in Romania, at the Iași National Theatre. The play had its national regional premiere on September 9, 2010, in Albuquerque, NM with Fusion Theatre Company. According to the company's website, the run for this production was completely sold out. The cast included professional and Tony-nominated actors such as Laurie Thomas and Joanne Camp, and was directed by Gil Lazier. Review: The play had its university premiere on September 23, 2010, in a unique co-production undertaken by Wright State University's Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures and The Human Race Theatre Company of Dayton, Ohio. The production was the first co-production of its kind for this play, combining seven professional actors with six students (EMC candidates) in WSU's BFA Acting program, and played to over four thousand during its three-week run in the Robert and Elaine Stein Auditorium on the Wright State campus.

This production featured Susanne Marley as Violet Weston, the role she had played in the Broadway production, and Rainbow Dickerson, also from the Broadway production, as well as six students from the WSU undergraduate theatre program. The play has its Dutch premiere on May 1, 2011 at the Stadsschouwburg Utrecht (Utrecht City Theatre) by theatre company De Utrechtse Spelen. It will be directed by Antoine Uitdehaag and stars Tjitske Reidinga, Peter Blok, Ria Eimers and Tom de Ket. The Dutch title is Augustus: Oklahoma. It made its Florida premiere at Florida Repertory Theatre Company in Fort Myers in March 2011. On April 20, 2011, the show open at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The play had its North Carolina regional premiere on August 25, 2011 at the Carolina Actors Studio Theatre in Charlotte. It was chosen for the 2011 Graduation Production of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, National Taiwan University, premiering on May 11. August: Osage County had its first college premiere at Western Illinois University on April 20, 2011. Due to a serious fall during its final week of rehearsal, the director had to step in for the lead and perform the role of Violet Weston.

The Spanish version of the play opened on December 7, 2011, in Madrid, with an all-star-cast including Amparo Baró as Violet, Carmen Machi as Barbara, Alicia Borrachero as Ivy, Clara Sanchis as Karen, Sonsoles Benedicto as Mattie-Fae and Irene Escolar as Jean among many others, directed by Gerardo Vera. The show closed on February 22, 2012, after a huge success. In India, veteran theatre actor and director Lillete Dubey has directed a slightly adapted version of the play and has been touring with it in several Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. In the Indian version, while the name of the play and those of most characters remain the same, the narrative has been shifted to the Indian state of Goa. Many well-known Indian theatre and film actors have major roles in the play, with Dubey herself playing the role of Violet with Sandhya Mridul as Barbara, Kitu Gidwani as Mattie, Mita Vashisht as Karen and Suchitra Pillai as Ivy. The Polish adaptation of the play, titled "Sierpień" (meaning "August"), had its premiere in Teatr Studio in Warsaw on February 2, 2012. Imperium Theater in Leiden, The Netherlands, was the first amateur theater company outside the United States to perform the play, on May 12, 2012. The PACE (Performing Arts Curriculum Experience) program at Mamaroneck High School opened their 2013 season with August: Osage County on October 23rd, 2013. The Fox Network's cartoon comedy series American Dad did an over the top, metaphor-festooned satirical send up of the play's style as well as Clifford Odets' Paradise Lost, called “Blood Crieth Unto Heaven.” The UMass Theatre Guild of University of Massachusetts Amherst premiered an entirely student-run production of August: Osage County on April 9, 2015.

Original Chicago Cast

  • Ian Barford* – Little Charles
  • Deanna Dunagan – Violet Weston
  • Kimberly Guerrero—Johnna Monevata
  • Francis Guinan* – Charlie Aiken
  • Rick Snyder* – Steve Heidebrecht
  • Dennis Letts – Beverly Weston
  • Fawn Johnstin—Jean Fordham
  • Mariann Mayberry* – Karen Weston
  • Amy Morton* – Barbara Fordham
  • Sally Murphy* – Ivy Weston
  • Jeff Perry* – Bill Fordham
  • Rondi Reed* – Mattie Fae Aiken
  • Troy West—Sheriff Deon Gilbeau
  • Diane Dorsey—u/s Violet, Mattie Fae
  • Robert E. Dennison—u/s Beverly, Charlie
  • Patrice Egleston—u/s Barbara
  • Lori Myers—u/s Ivy, Karen
  • Peter Davis—u/s Bill, Steve, Sherriff Gilbeau
  • Steven Marzolf—u/s Little Charles
  • Sadieh Rifai—u/s Johnna
  • Zanny Laird—u/s Jean
  • (*) Steppenwolf Ensemble Members

    Original Broadway Cast

  • Ian Barford* – Little Charles
  • Deanna Dunagan – Violet Weston (succeeded during the run by Estelle Parsons and later Phylicia Rashad)
  • Kimberly Guerrero—Johnna Monevata
  • Francis Guinan* – Charlie Aiken
  • Brian Kerwin – Steve Heidebrecht
  • Dennis Letts – Beverly Weston
  • Madeleine Martin – Jean Fordham
  • Mariann Mayberry* – Karen Weston
  • Amy Morton* – Barbara Fordham
  • Sally Murphy* – Ivy Weston
  • Jeff Perry* – Bill Fordham
  • Rondi Reed* – Mattie Fae Aiken (succeeded during the run by Elizabeth Ashley)
  • Troy West—Sheriff Deon Gilbeau
  • Munson Hicks—u/s Charles, Beverly
  • Susane Marley—u/s Violet, Mattie Fae
  • Jay Patterson—u/s Steve, Bill, Sherriff
  • Dee Pelletier—u/s Barbara, Karen, Ivy
  • Molly Ranson—u/s Jean
  • Aaron Serotsky—u/s Little Charles, Sherriff
  • Kristina Valada-Viars—u/s Johnna
  • (*) Steppenwolf Ensemble Member

    Original London Cast

  • Ian Barford* – Little Charles
  • Deanna Dunagan – Violet Weston
  • Kimberly Guerrero—Johnna Monevata
  • Paul Vincent O'Connor—Charlie Aiken
  • Gary Cole* – Steve Heidebrecht
  • Chelcie Ross—Beverly Weston
  • Molly Ranson—Jean Fordham
  • Mariann Mayberry* – Karen Weston
  • Amy Morton* – Barbara Fordham
  • Sally Murphy* – Ivy Weston
  • Jeff Perry* – Bill Fordham
  • Rondi Reed* – Mattie Fae Aiken
  • Troy West—Sheriff Deon Gilbeau
  • Morgan Deare—u/s Charlie, Beverly
  • Anne Kavanagh—u/s Violet, Mattie Fae
  • Mitchell Mullen—u/s Steve, Bill
  • Lizzie Roper—u/s Karen, Ivy
  • Sarah Van der Pol—u/s Jean, Johnna
  • Ian Porter—u/s Little Charles, Sherriff
  • Elizabeth Moynihan—u/s Barbara
  • (*) Steppenwolf Ensemble Member

    Original Broadway Production

  • In 2009, Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Even with a run time of three and a half hours, Tracy Letts' 2007 drama of Southern-fried familial dysfunction went by in one lightning-fast jolt of pure theatrical electricity."
  • Origins of the play's name

    The play is named after a poem written by Howard Starks. Of this, Tracy Letts has stated,

    "I could never come up with a title as brilliant as 'August: Osage County.' Mr. Howard Starks, gentleman, teacher, poet, genius, mentor, friend, created that title for an extraordinary poem that is one of the inspirations for my play. I steal the title with deference, yet without apology – Howard, I'm sure, would have it no other way – and I dedicate this play to his memory."


    August: Osage County Wikipedia