You Can’t Choose Your Family

You can’t choose your family. Nobody can relate to this more than the Westons. In the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play, August: Osage County, the patriarch of the Weston clan goes missing. The family then reunites at the Oklahoma homestead, where long-held secrets are unflinchingly and uproariously revealed. August: Osage County is a portrait of a dysfunctional American family at its finest—and absolute worst. Which got us thinking, can the acclaimed Omaha actors in this OCP season opener relate to their characters?

Moira Mangiameli who plays the oldest Weston sister Barbara comes from a family with 10 kids.

“The relationship between the [Weston] sisters is definitely complicated, and so is my relationship with my sisters,” said Moira. “The brothers are easier just because there's not the element of competition, I guess. My sisters are my closest friends and even though we drive each other crazy sometimes, we'd walk through fire for each other, and I think that's true of the Weston girls, too, deep down...deep, DEEP down.”

Susan Baer Collins who is not often seen onstage at OCP, but rather behind the scenes offering her directing expertise is playing Violet Weston, the matriarch of the clan. Like Moira, she has a special relationship with her sisters that she can see in August: Osage County.

“I'm one of three sisters, the one in the middle, and I recognize that strong sisterly connection, as well as the competition, jealousies and criticisms that come with sisters,” said Susan

Susan’s identification with the show goes deeper than her relationship with her sisters.

“I can relate to some degree with Violet Weston – she is a drug addict who had a very deprived childhood, with a terrifically unstable and cruel mother,” said Susan. “My background was not economically deprived like Vi's, nor were our parents cruel, but my sisters and I grew up with a father (a physician) who for most of our growing up was addicted to alcohol and later prescription drugs. Our lives completely revolved around my father's moods and behavior. Starting at the age of 13, I saw my dad as the enemy – I would do anything to make him stop, such as rooting through his pockets to find his pills and throwing them away. I stopped destroying my dad's stash when I realized he was accusing my mother of doing it and she was taking the responsibility for it, to protect me. My story does have a happier ending, however, than the play, thank God! My father went into treatment when I was in my mid-twenties and achieved sobriety for the rest of his life. As a result, he was 100% there for my mother when she contracted cancer, and he was 100% there for all of us when she died.”

Even in the most upsetting times, these women know how to find joy and laughter, like the Westons.

When my oldest sister Kathy passed away almost 20 years ago, there was a moment in the hospital room I'll never forget,” said Moira. “They had turned off the machines and we were all gathered around her bed, holding hands and just being together. It was almost completely silent in the room. The nurse came in and said, ‘You know, you can talk to her if you want. They say the hearing is the last thing to go.’ There was a small silence and then my Dad said ‘Well, in her case, it was the first.’ You see, Kathy was deaf from birth. We all laughed till we cried, and it made saying goodbye so much easier.”

Don’t miss these inspirational women and the rest of the powerhouse cast in August: Osage County, Aug. 17-Sept. 16 in the Howard Drew Theatre. Tickets are $35 for adults and $21 for students. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $23 for adults and $15 for students. For tickets, call (402) 553-0800, stop by the Box Office or click here.

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