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Tony Winner Dunagan Leads August US Cast at NT

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After successful Equity negotiations, the original stars of Tracy Letts’ five-time Tony Award winner August: Osage County - including Deanna Dunagan (pictured) and Rondi Reed, who personally won gongs for, respectively Best Leading and Best Featured Actress in a Play this year (See News, 16 Jun 2008) – are now confirmed to reprise their performances for the comedy-drama’s UK premiere at the National Theatre.

The Steppenwolf Theatre production opens on 26 November 2008 (previews from 21 November) in the NT Lyttelton, where it has a straight run until 21 January 2009.

August: Osage County exposes the dark side of the middle American family. When the Westons unexpectedly reunite after dad disappears, their Oklahoman homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets, all overseen by the pill-popping and scathingly acidic matriarch Violet (Dunagan).

Other original ensemble members accompanying the London transfer are: Ian Barford, Kimberley Guerrero, Mariann Mayberry, Michael McGuire, Amy Morton, Sally Murphy, Jeff Perry, Molly Ranson and Troy West. They’re joined by fellow American Paul Vincent O’Connor, with one final part still to be recast.

First seen at Steppenwolf in Chicago in summer 2007, the Broadway transfer of August: Osage County got off to a rocky start when its opening at the Imperial Theatre was postponed due to the 19-day stagehands’ strike last year (See News, 29 Nov 2007), but it subsequently transferred for an extended run at the Music Box Theatre, where it’s still running

The production is directed by Anna D Shapiro and designed by Todd Rosenthal, both of whom also won Tony Awards for their work on the production. It has costumes by Ana Kuzmanic, lighting by Ann G Wrightson, music by David Singer, fights by Chuck Coyl and sound by Richard Woodbury.

August: Osage County also won the Tony Award for Best Play and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, amongst other accolades. Author Tracy Letts’ other credits include Bug and Killer Joe, both of which were seen at London’s Bush Theatre in the 1990s. His latest play, Superior Donuts, premiered in Chicago, again care of Steppenwolf, this past June.

Formed in 1976, Steppenwolf is committed to the principle of ensemble performance through the collaboration of a company of actors, directors and playwrights. The company was last seen at the National in 1989 with The Grapes of Wrath.

Speaking to Whatsonstage.com from Chicago, Steppenwolf artistic director Martha Lavey said: “We’re all so honoured and delighted to be at the National. Steppenwolf did a production of The Grapes of Wrath 20 years ago with a cast of our actors. It feels fitting to return with a large American play, this time written by one of our ensemble members, Tracy Letts.” Of the actors soon to be treading the boards in London, Lavey said “they’re very representative of our company and the aesthetic that’s been part of our company for 30 years”, which is “characterised by a muscularity and authenticity” of performance.

- by Terri Paddock


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