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Theater dept. season finale rife with familial turmoil

“It’s been a lot of fun working on it, which sounds bad because it’s so dark of a show,” Bess Clement ’18, who stars as Violet Weston in the Theater department’s upcoming “August: Osage County,” said.

The 2007 play by Tracy Letts will run in Kelsey Theater for five performaces between April 6 and 9. The show concludes the Theater Department’s 2016-17 season and is the first ever play to be directed at St. Olaf by new faculty member Assistant Professor Michelle Cowan Gibbs.

“It’s been a lot of hard acting work. Professor Gibbs is holding us very accountable for knowing what we’re doing on stage at all times and forming relationships between characters. It has made this a challenging acting project but one that I have found incredibly rewarding,” Maddie Sabin ’17, who plays Ivy Weston, said.

One notable and immediately striking aspect of the production is its set. The show’s set crew has constructed a three story house on the Kelsey stage for the action to take place in.

“The level of detail and realism in this set presents specific challlenges for making sure the fit and finish is at an acceptable level and that everything looks as it would architecturally,” Theater Department’s technical director Todd Edwards said. “It is kind of the perfect storm of size and detail and amount of props make it the biggest show since I’ve been here. We’ve had shows comparable in size, we’ve had shows comparable in detail. But when you take into account the size, the detail and the amount of props and other specialty items, and again the fit and finish of the realism, it is probably the biggest undertaking the shop has made since I’ve been here.”

However, this large-scale implementation technical elements does not mean that the show will be consumed by its own spectacle.

“The acting’s great, the lights are great, the set is fantastic but it’s such a well-written show that the words are able to carry themselves,” Avery Evangeline Baker ’19, who plays Mattie Fae Aiken, said.

Though “August: Osage County” is considered a dark comedy, many cast members reiterated the heaviness of a lot of the play’s content – such as suicide, incest and toxic familial strife.

“It takes your heart and then flips a porcupine over it and the sets the porcupine ablaze as it lies supine on your heart,” Josh Horst ’19, who plays Steve Heidebrecht, said.

“It’s a wild ride of hectic family drama,” Jeffrey Nolan ’20, who plays Little Charles Aiken, said.

“The support offstage is really crucial, and everybody gives that to each other and its a beautiful, beautiful thing. Example: after I fight Bess and physically attack her, the lights go down and I can see her smiling at me as the lights go down and then we hug,” Claire Chenoweth ’20, who plays Barbara Fordham, said.

“It’s a super fun show. Come see it. It’ll have have you laughing, then crying, then questioning why you were ever laughing,” Coleman Foley ’17, who plays Charlie Aiken, said.

Tickets for “August: Osage County” are available at the Theater Department box office or online at