‘August: Osage County’ and the Origin of Weston

As most people know, Weston is not my birth name. In fact, Weston is the last name of the family in Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer and Tony award-winning play, August: Osage County. One of the most common questions I’ve gotten so far is why I decided to publish under a pen name, and to be honest there really isn’t a single good answer.

First, I should mention that Sullivan didn’t come out of thin air. It was my grandmother’s maiden name, and I think it speaks well to my southern lineage. The fact of the matter is that the Sullivans–whether they kept the name or not through the years–have been very good to me all my life. They are kind, loving souls and I don’t think that anyone could have asked for better extended family. Taking the last name Sullivan, I hope, honors them and ultimately my grandmother.

August: Osage County deals more with the complications of close family, such as mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The play is, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of literature ever written, and if you haven’t seen it, I believe it’s still on Netflix for the time being. I’m not kidding when I tell you that seeing it will change your perspective on family and life.

I relate strongly to this story, as I think everyone does, because–again, like everyone else–my family is not perfect. Barb, the leading character, finds herself sucked into this horrible situation where her father has gone missing, and her entire family has scrambled back to Osage county, Oklahoma, to comfort her mother, Violet–who is both a cancer patient and drug addict–and await her father’s return. I can say, without spoiling anything, that he doesn’t come back. Instead, the floodgate that’s held back the Weston family secrets opens, and chaos ensues.

The story is touching, funny at times, and you will leave only slightly heartbroken.

I think the most surreal part of this story for me is the relationship between Barb (portrayed by Julia Roberts in the film) and Violet (portrayed by Meryl Streep). Without divulging too much about myself or the plot, I can confirm without a doubt that Tracy Letts was indeed spying on my interactions with my own mother when he wrote this play, because that’s the only way I can possibly imagine that he so effortlessly captured this imperfect, and in as they say several times throughout the story “fucked up” dynamic.

Barb is me, you guys. She’s bitter, condescending, and sarcastic–and she can admit it. But she truly just wants to make everyone happy, honestly wants what’s best for her and the people she loves, and she just wants to make it through the chaos of daily life–to survive all the shit that life has thrown at her all at once.

Violet is the same way. She wants to thrive, but the ghosts of her past keep her grounded in the vicious cycle of addiction and seclusion. She wants to relate to her family, but she can’t seem to do so without lashing out at them. To me, Violet’s animosity comes from the fact that it is so hard for her family to understand her, when she is genuinely the most forthcoming and honest character on stage. In a family held together by secrets, Violet is the only person who never once lies–not to mention, she sees through everyone else’s bullshit, sees them all for who they really are–yet she is the one who takes the blame for every bit of the tension.

I don’t know why this is so important to me now. Probably because I needed a distraction from all the editing I am supposed to be doing right now, or maybe because I just finished reading the play (after watching the movie at least a dozen times since its release back in 2012) and finally I understand all the nuances of the plot.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of this story here, and I’m not going to. There’s nothing I can say that will do it justice. I’m simply going to drop the movie trailer below the post and go back to editing, considering I really, REALLY need to finish the final edits of Just Off the Path.

Thanks for letting me rant, and if anyone actually made it to the bottom of this post, I owe you a drink or something.

P.S: Can we talk about how Tracy Letts is, as the kids say: “goals AF”? He has two Tony Awards, one for Best Play for August, the other as Best Leading Actor in the revival for Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and a Pulitzer Prize, again for August. 

Max jealousy here, just sayin’.