I mean there’s a certain finality about a movie, when it’s done it’s done – that raised eyebrow in that moment will always be that raised eyebrow. Whereas a play only lives as a blueprint for a performance on any given night. There’s a reason you can eat popcorn and watch a movie and you can’t do that in the theatre. Theatre you have to lean in, you have to tune your ear to the stage and participate…I respond to heat. And blood. And humanity. The cold experience is not for me. I’ve always enjoyed all the real people in a room together in the theatre.
—  Tracy Letts (x)

Osage County is Osage County because it is home to the Osage Tribe. The whole play takes place on indigenous land, shedding light on the fact that—barring a handful of theatres on reservations—every stage in America is built on confiscated Indian land.

To the discerning ear, this reality creates a subsonic thrum that resounds underneath every play that will ever be performed in this country: Genocide happened here. Genocide happened here. The land remembers, even when we forget.

Secondly, there’s the playwright himself.

In a story as personal as it is political, why did Tracy Letts choose to include a Native character? In his words, “When you grow up in Oklahoma and you have Native American blood, that heritage is embedded in your DNA.”

Dennis Letts was member of the Muscogee (Creek) Tribe. Along with European ancestry, he also passed indigenous DNA on to his sons. Tracy Letts is of mixed blood. The story of our nation is one of mixed blood. As storytellers, it is vital we engage every strand of DNA in our collective being in order to function at our highest potential.

Finally, there’s the role I played in all of this—the role of Cheyenne housekeeper, Johnna Monevata.


The infamous second act dinner scene performed by the original cast of August: Osage County.

Watch on

First look at August: Osage County


The Exhaustive Emotional Violence of August: Osage County

Earlier this year, when the film adaptation of Tracy Letts’s dysfunctional-family stage drama August: Osage County premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, Catherine Shepard wrote in The Guardian that the mean-spirited, pill-addicted matriarch Violet Weston (played by Meryl Streep) “rip[s] strips off the whole pack, sparing no prisoners … choking the air.” This month, The Observer’s Rex Reed assessed that whatever the film lacks, it makes up for in the scenes where Violet’s family members “scratch, scream and fight back”—and in The Huffington Post, Marshall Fine wrote that “This particular family get-together is like one of those ‘Royal Rumble’ professional wrestling matches,” and that “no one, it seems, is safe from attack.”

There’s a theme here. For a dialogue-heavy film with maybe 10 seconds of actual physical aggression, August: Osage County is a remarkably violent experience.

Read more. [Image: The Weinstein Company]

August: Osage County - Tracy Letts

VIOLET: I ever tell you the story of Raymond Qualls? Not much story to it. Boy I had a crush on when I was thirteen or so. Real rough-looking boy, beat up Levis, messy hair. Terrible under-bite. But he had these beautiful cowboy boots, shiny chocolate leather. He was so proud of those boots, you could tell, the way he’d strut around, all arms and elbows, puffed up and cocksure. I decided I needed to get a girly pair of those same boots and I knew he’d ask me to go steady, convinced myself of it. He’d see me in those boots and say, “Now there’s the gal for me.” Found the boots in a window downtown and just went crazy: I’d stay up late in bed, rehearsing the conversation I was going to have with Raymond when he saw me in my boots. Must’ve asked Momma a hundred times if I could get those boots. “What do you want for Christmas, Vi?” “Momma, I’ll give all of it up for those boots.” Bargaining, you know? She started dropping hints about a package under the tree she had wrapped up, about the size of a boot box, real nice wrapping paper. “Now Vi, don’t you cheat and look in there before Christmas morning.” Little smile on her face. Christmas morning, I was up like a shot, boy under the tree, tearing open that box. There was a pair of boots, all right… men’s work boots, holes in the toes, chewed up laces, caked in mud and dog poo. Lord, my Momma laughed for days. My Momma was a mean, nasty old woman. I suppose that’s where I got it from.