Behind The Curtain: What Theatre’s August: Osage County

Behind The Curtain: What Theatre's 'August: Osage County'

SU's student-run theater group staged the melodrama at Schine Underground.
Published: April 26, 2018

It is two hours until show time. Kelly Poleman, August: Osage County’s director, intently watches the actors onstage as they practice the show’s climactic scene. Once they finish, she gives them quick pointers and reminders that it is okay if they slip up during the show.

“Once the lights go up, it is going to be completely out of my control,” Poleman says. “But I’m excited to see what they do without me directing them, because I have so much faith in them.”

Presented by Syracuse University’s What Theatre in Schine Underground, August: Osage County is centered around the Weston family and their estate in Oklahoma. With closeted family secrets, problematic lovers and a disappearance, this production is filled with drama, compassion and not to mention, humor. What Theatre hosted performances on April 19 and 20.



For Poleman, a senior in Newhouse, August: Osage County is the last production that she will work on at Syracuse University. Poleman performed in last year’s spring production, but this year she tried her hand at directing.

“I’ve always loved acting but really loved the idea of having control,” Poleman laughs. “I also did this play in high school when I played Barbara, and I loved how it is very female driven.”

What Theatre is a completely student-run theater troupe at Syracuse University. Since its inception in 2006, the troupe has put on all types of musicals and plays, even some student originals. For students who are not drama majors but still want a creative outlet, What Theatre gives them the opportunity to become involved in theater without a huge time commitment. But that doesn’t mean these students are any less serious about the theater.

Sarah Rebetje, who played the leading role of Violet Weston, attended two different high schools, one of which was dedicated to performing arts. While now a junior, Rebetje had not acted in any Syracuse University plays until now. The reason she joined? The amount of passion her peers in this group had. As for the play itself, Rebetje knew it was a feat she wanted to tackle.

“I really loved the story of the dysfunctional family because I think everyone can relate to that,” Rebetje says. “And there are certain monologues that I have that made me think about how I act towards others. Violet is someone who is very defensive and insecure, and it’s interesting to learn from that my own core values and beliefs.”

As it gets closer to show time, the actors do last minute touchups on hair and makeup. They run lines with each other while curling their hair or adjusting their microphones. Assistant Director Audrey O’Donnell plays with the sound on her laptop so that everything is ready to go when 7 p.m. hits.

O’Donnell, who is directing for the first time at Syracuse University, had also been very involved in her theater department in high school. At first wanting to go to college for musical theater, O’Donnell explains that she decided to go a different route instead but has missed the performing arts during her time in college.

“When Kelly presented this opportunity to me, I figured why not,” O’Donnell says. “Plus, it’s a really good play and the story touches on a lot of amazing things that I think entertainment fails to grasp. It really highlights each character’s complexities in a really interesting way, which is cool and challenging.”

A little after 7 p.m., Poleman walks onstage.

“I am the crazy person who decided to direct this play in a 12 by 12 space.”

She thanks the cast and crew for all that they’ve done since auditions began in February and emphasizes how the cast has exceeded her expectations. Poleman then walks off the stage and the show begins.

It is now out of her hands.