The intense drama of Pulitzer Prize-winning play 'August: Osage County' performed at Stage Door Theatre

The full cast in the Atlanta production of "August: Osage County." (photo credit Myrtie Cope Photography)

The intense heat of August is matched by the intensity of drama in “August: Osage County.” The Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play by Tracy Letts opens Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Stage Door Theatre in Dunwoody.

Forrest Attaway is the director, and he joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom along with the play’s executive producer Michelle Neil, who also plays the character Mattie Fae Aiken in the new production.

Interview highlights:

Introducing the fraught Weston family:

“The Weston family is a family that suffers from generational trauma that has been literally bled down to them from patriarch to patriarch, from matriarch to matriarch. The thing about this dysfunctional family – sometimes you don’t realize what kind of damage that you are doing until the damage is far too gone,” said Attaway. “So you have this successful- one time, very successful – patriarch, who… made some very poor choices, and not just his marriage, but the raising up of his children. Then, of course, their parents weren’t any finer.”

“A lot of it is masked with alcoholism and drug addiction, but the reality is, sometimes these people are doing their very best to communicate, and they’re not. And then sometimes they’re trying not to communicate, and they actually are communicating,” Attaway said. “There are so many times when Letts has just actors talking over each other, and over each other, and over each other, where you’re trying to hold onto to one of these conversations, and the reality is, the cacophony is what was built in.”

A dark play managing to find humor:

“I find the heavier things are when you just expose it with the lighter moments, it makes those lighter moments so much more important to you,” Attaway reflected. “This is just a beautifully written script; it literally is a masterpiece. I remember Edward Albee used to say, ‘The great piece should move like a great classical piece of music,’ and this definitely does. So even though we have those huge dips down, then we have this arpeggio; we have this lightness that is just infused in the words… Sometimes nightmares can be very funny when you go back and think about what happened.”

“I think our audience is going to really be rolling in the aisles, perhaps uncomfortably, because they probably think they shouldn’t be laughing at it,” said Neil. “There are some hilarious moments in this play. Our lead, Rebecca Koon, who’s playing Violet, has found this childlike nature, almost, of Violet, where she is absolutely playing in the moment, and it is mesmerizing to watch. Yes, I can’t wait for our audiences to see this.”

How “August” helped spark an effort to aid addiction recovery:

“It hit me so personally because I’m a recovering alcoholic, and the story that was unfolding about generational trauma that started with the grandparents, and kind of just rolled right down… it was so closely tied to my own story,” said Neil. “I was like, ‘This. This is the piece that I really want to get on stage.’ Because it’s so important, with family trauma, addiction, mental health issues, that we talk about these things, and we air them, and we get the information about recovery out there.” 

“We found Atlanta Recovery Place, and the work that these guys are doing in the local community is outstanding. I mean, not only are they providing rehabilitation services, they’re providing psychiatric services, return-to-work, sober living housing, getting you into rehab, and they also never turn anyone away… It was just the perfect partnership,” Neil explained. “A portion of our ticket sales, as well as directly fundraising… and then all of our concession proceeds are going directly to Atlanta Recovery Place.”

“August: Osage County” is on stage at Stage Door Theatre in Dunwoody, presented by Greenlight Acting Studios, from Aug. 17 – 28. Tickets and more information are available at