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Two-Time Emmy Winner Dorothy Lyman Will Star in Tracy Letts’ Dark Comedy “August: Osage County”

HSN | TR's cast for "August: Osage County" includes (from left) Pamela Dunlap, Dorothy Lyman, Julie Fishell, Lauren Kennedy, and Lisa Brescia (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

The Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh cast for “August: Osage County” includes (from left) Pamela Dunlap, Dorothy Lyman, Julie Fishell, Lauren Kennedy, and Lisa Brescia (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

TV soap-opera star and two-time Emmy Award® winner Dorothy Lyman will star as Violet Weston in Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh’s stellar presentation of August: Osage County, award-winning 47-year-old playwright and screenwriter Tracy Letts’ 2007 dark comedy about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family, on Nov. 29-Dec. 2 and Dec. 6-9 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC. The 65-year-old television actress, director, and producer is a Minneapolis, MN native, who is probably best known for her performances as Gwen Frame in “Another World” (1976-1980, 1989) and as Opal Sue Gardner in “All My Children” (1981-83).

Dorothy Lyman won the 1982 Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role in a Daytime Drama Series and the 1983 Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series — both for “All My Children.” She also played Naomi Oates Harper in the syndicated sitcom “Mama’s Family” (1983-90), starring Vicki Lawrence.

“We have brought in three amazing actors from New York City [Dorothy Lyman, Lisa Brescia, and Pamela Dunlap], who join 10 local actors to build this fantastic company,” reports Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh guest director and former Benson, NC resident Eric Woodall. “Due to the limited [two-week] rehearsal time, it was important that the actors show up on the first day with their lines already memorized. It was the only way we would have time to dig into character development and all the behavior details which make the performances — and this play — so meaningful.”

According to dramatist Tracy Letts’ website: “August: Osage County centers on a reunion of the Weston family. The three-act play deals with such issues as drug abuse, alcoholism, suicide, death, family dysfunction, sexual harassment, pedophilia, aging, generational change, racism, incest, infidelity, and ultimately love.” The Tulsa, OK native is also the author of Killer Joe (1998), the Pulitzer Prize finalist Man from Nebraska (2003), Bug (2004), and Superior Donuts (2008).

August: Osage County had its world premiere on June 28, 2007 at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in  Chicago, IL; and the play made its Broadway debut, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, on Dec. 4, 2007 at the Imperial Theatre and later transferred to the Music Box Theatre. The show played a total of 18 previews and 648 performances before closing on June 28, 2009.

The play not only won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Play and 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, but it also won the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Best New Play, the 2008 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play, the 2008 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, and the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Play.

“I first heard about this play in 2007 when a co-worker came back from a recent Chicago trip having seen the original production at Steppenwolf,” recalls HSN | TR guest director Eric Woodall. “She told me she just saw a play called August: Osage County and that it was one of the best things she had ever seen — that it was still ‘with her.’ Within months, the buzz had reached New York; and the Broadway transfer was imminent. Then came the Pulitzer Prize, the Tonys, etc. I saw the play just after it opened in New York, and couldn’t move from my seat when it ended.”

He adds, “August: Osage County is a dark comedy that doubles audiences in laughter one moment and then gasps them [into] shock the next moment without warning and without apology. But throughout and above the chaos, August: Osage County is a play about family.

“It is a play about a group of people who — despite fierce vices and deep-rooted differences — are tightly bound by blood, vows, and a long, damaged history,” Woodall reveals. “Although it takes place in Oklahoma, the play captures a family dynamic that most Americans can relate to, especially Southern households.

He adds, “There are scenes in the play that feel like they have been lifted from conversations around my own family’s kitchen table. There is pain in this American tale, but the story is told with immense humor. I am drawn to real-life experiences that make us laugh! This play is chock-full.”

Eric Woodall notes, “August: Osage County begins in August as the action takes place over several weeks in the home of Beverly and Violet Weston (Phil Crone and Dorothy Lyman) in Oklahoma. Beverly is a poet and has a drinking problem, while his wife Violet suffers from mouth cancer and has become addicted to drugs.

“The story begins,” Woodall explains, “when Beverly is trying to hire a new live-in cook and caregiver (Katie Lynch) to look after his wife. A few days later, Beverly disappears, which motivates the family to come together to look for him — but [a few days later they find out] from the Sheriff (David McClutchey) that [Beverly] has committed suicide.”

Woodall adds, “Several family members have gathered in the house to provide support for Violet, including her daughter Ivy (Lisa Brescia), her sister Mattie Fae (Pamela Dunlap), and Mattie Fae’s husband Charlie (Paul Paliyenko). Ivy’s older sister Barbara (Julie Fishell) arrives from Boulder, Colorado, with her husband Bill (Jeffery West) and 14-year-old daughter Jean (Mary-Mattison Mallery). 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 [Barbara] of abandoning her family and breaking her father’s heart.

“As the family has come from Beverly’s funeral,” Woodall points out, “Ivy and Barbara’s sister Karen (Lauren Kennedy) has flown in from Florida with her new fiancé, Steve (Estes Tarver). Mattie Fae and Charlie’s son Little Charles (Jesse R. Gephart) has overslept and missed the funeral. His father is sympathetic, but Mattie Fae is — as usual — rude to and critical of her son.

“Once the whole family is gathered,” Woodall says, “sparks fly as skeletons come flying out of the closet, revealing the hysterical pathos and pain of this complicated family.”

In addition to guest director Eric Woodall, the Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh creative team for August: Osage County includes husband-and-wife producers Alan Campbell and Lauren Kennedy, technical director Bill Yates, set designer Chris Bernier, lighting designer Jennifer Becker, costume designer Denise Schumaker, properties manager Eileen Tack, sound designer Eric Collins, fight choreographer David McClutchey, and stage manager Lauren Juengel.

Director Eric Woodall says, “The set is a three-story house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma in 2007, though it wouldn’t have seen any updating or real attention since the 1970s. Much of the design is realistic, naturalistic with hints of  ‘representational.’ For instance, there are real windows; but some walls are just suggested.”

The show’s costumes are “Contemporary 2007,” says Woodall. He adds, “The lighting will feel contemporary and naturalistic for the most part, but have hints of a ghostly glow when characters are ‘hanging out’ in parts of the house as they are ‘the background’ of certain scenes.”

Eric Woodall notes, “This play is huge  — a major undertaking by [Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh, with a] cast of 13 on a three-story ‘house’ set. It is a full three-act play. Friends in New York can’t believe that we are only rehearsing for two weeks before putting this huge play up, but we are!

“Lauren Kennedy, Alan Campbell, and I started working on [August: Osage County] a year ago,” Woodall reveals. “I am only able to take a few weeks leave from my regular job in New York City as casting director/Tara Rubin Casting, so we have had to do a great deal of e-mailing and conference calling. The last six months have been full of planning and production meetings to be ready for these few weeks!”

Woodall reports, “When this play first premiered in Chicago, the run time was well over four hours! I’m happy to report that we come in right around three hours and I promise you it won’t even feel like you have been there that long!”

Director Eric Woodall tells Triangle theatergoers to come ready laugh. But he cautions, “[August: Osage County has] Mature themes and language [and is] Not for kids.

“I feel so lucky to be a part of the first exposure this area has to this Pulitzer Prize-winning play that has already [made] history as one of the most important plays of our time!” Woodall says. “Come see [Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh]’s production. You will never forget it.”

SECOND OPINION: Nov. 28th Durham, NC Independent Weekly mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/august-osage-county/Event?oid=3189077; Nov. 28th Raleigh, NC NBC 17 interview with Dorothy Lyman, conducted by Sharon Delaney and Valonda Calloway for “My Carolina Today”: http://www2.nbc17.com/lifestyles/2012/nov/28/actress-dorothy-lyman-87996-vi-54121/; Nov. 26th New York, NY Call Me Adam interview with Dorothy Lyman, conducted by Adam Rothenberg: http://www.callmeadam.com/interviews/2012/11/26/dorothy-lyman-august-osage-county-interview.html; and Nov. 25th Raleigh, NC News & Observer interview with Dorothy Lyman, conducted by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/11/24/2501754/opal-is-no-shrinking-violet.html.

Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh presents AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY at 8 p.m. Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 3 p.m. Dec. 2, 8 p.m. Dec. 6-7, and 3 p.m. Dec. 8 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $25-$35.

BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/27655.

INFORMATION/GROUP RATES: 919-480-5166.

SHOW/SEASON: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/.

PRESENTERS:

Hot Summer Nights: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/.

Theatre Raleigh: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/.

VENUE: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/venue/fletcher-opera-theater.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/directions.

PARKING: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/parking.

OTHER LINKS:

August: Osage County: http://tracyletts.com/plays/august-osage-county/ (Tracy Letts’ website), http://www.augustonbroadway.com/ (fan site), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August:_Osage_County (Wikipedia), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=467753 (Internet Broadway Database).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Tracy Letts: http://tracyletts.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracy_Letts (Wikipedia).

Eric Woodall: http://broadwayworld.com/people/Eric-Woodall/ (BroadwayWorld.com bio).

Dorothy Lyman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Lyman (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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