NTC presents ‘August: Osage County’

by By Joan Doggrell, Special to The Times-Herald


Ann Moore and Eric Arvidson acting as Jean Fordham and Bill Fordham in NTC’s production of “August: Osage County.” 

Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County,” opened Thursday at Newnan Theatre Company and runs through this weekend and next. The comedy/drama, directed by Tony Daniel, portrays a family attempting to support each other in a crisis.

Three sisters and their significant others come home to be with their mother when their father disappears. They soon learn that he has committed suicide.

“In a time of crisis when a family member passes away, a family can rally together and try to be stronger, or it can tear itself apart,” said artistic director Tony Daniel. “In this case, the family tries its best, but it doesn’t work. Is this a show for everyone? Possibly not, because it deals with the subject matter very frankly. There is some mature language, and there are some mature themes, just as there are in life.

“We try to do popular shows, but at the same time, we don’t want to treat our audience like they can’t think. Some people like that challenge. As my grandfather would say, they want a little vinegar in their greens.”

“This play is a new experience for me,” added Daniel. “You have to go to a dark place in your head. I’ve known of and been in those situations myself. You would think that a family could play nice for a week to honor and mourn the departed. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. The bonds of family can be tested and sometimes are broken forever.”

The casting call for “August: Osage County” has drawn fresh talent to NTC.

“Word got around that we were going to be one of the first companies in this area to do something this edgy,” said Daniel. “A lot of people were ready for it.”

Three of those people are Eric Arvidson, Jay Freeman Cooper, and Lori Lewis. To a person, they were drawn to NTC by its reputation for excellence.

“I moved down here from North Atlanta where I’ve been an actor for about five years,” said Arvidson. “I had been to a few plays here and loved them. I’m thrilled to be part of the cast now. I’ll be back for more because everybody here is very warm and welcoming and very professional.”

Cooper came to Newnan from Starkville, Mississippi, where he had been involved with an active and highly successful community theater.

“It was nice to find a venue here that’s very similar,” he said. “This is my first play and the first one I auditioned for. I was incredibly excited to be offered the part.

“The talent in this show is incredible, and the way that Lori Lewis portrays the matriarch is even better than Meryl Streep’s version. Every actor in this show has made me step my game up. That’s impressive. I love this little town.”

Lewis has lived in and around Sharpsburg for 30 years, though her acting experience has been mainly at Southside Theater.

“I wanted to come to Newnan Theatre Company because I admire the talent here. I really just wanted to dip my toe. Somehow I stuck my whole foot in.”

“Violet is a difficult role,” said Daniel. “It’s a dark place to go. Her husband has just died, she’s taking chemotherapy for cancer, and she’s never gotten on well with her daughters. I was hoping to get two good people to choose from. Instead I got five.”

Ann Moore, 18, is playing the role of a rebellious 15- year-old.

“Eleven people tried out for that role,” said Daniel. “Normally you don’t put a young person in a show that’s this complex and edgy because it’s hard for an actor of that age to get into that mindset. It took me a long time to make a decision because 10 out of the 11 could have played that part. I had to pick the best one. Ann just hit it all immediately.”

Moore has been in several summer youth productions at NTC, including “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “Urinetown,” and “Spring Awakening,” and backstage for “City of Angels.” But this is her first experience working with adults.

“It’s a lot different,” said Moore. “Teenagers get distracted a lot more easily. With adults you’re more focused, and it’s a more professional environment. I love working with the adults. We all help each other. If we see we’re weak in one spot, we work together to fix it.”

Other cast members include Tom Grandpre playing the patriarch Beverly Weston; Terri Ducker as daughter Barbara Fordham; Andi Laaker as daughter Ivy Weston; Rachel Wise as daughter Karen Weston; Betty Mitchell as Mattie Fae Aiken; Bert Lyons as Charlie Aiken; Katarina Carleo as Johnna Monevata; Robbie Kirkland as Little Charles Aiken; and Drew Turner as Steve Heidebrecht.

In 2008, “August: Osage County” won a Pulitzer Prize, six Tony awards, six Drama Desk awards, and a New York Drama Critics Award for Best Play, among others. The movie version starring Meryl Streep, Dermot Mulroney and Julia Roberts received two Oscar nominations. Letts wrote both the play and the screenplay.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through the NTC website, www.newnantheatre.org, or via phone by calling 770-683-6282.

Performance times & ticket prices

March 13, 8 p.m., $7 for all.

March 14-15, 8 p.m., $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults.

March 16, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults.

March 20, 8 p.m., $7 for all.

March 21-22, 8 p.m., $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults.

March 23, 3 and 8 p.m., $8 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $14 for adults.

For questions regarding the content of any show, email artistic director Tony Daniel at artistic-director@newnantheatre.org.

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