When Joel Markowitz schmoozed with Estelle Parsons at the Kennedy Center on Monday, November 30th, the legendary actress described August: Osage County like this: “I don’t call it a play. I call it a phenomenon.” After his warm interview with the Oscar winner and four time Tony Award nominee, Joel remarked, “I don’t call Estelle Parsons an actress. I call her a phenomenon.”
Estelle plays Violet Weston, the mean, pill-hoarding, acerbic matriarch in the Tracy Letts dark comedy. Why did Estelle want to become part of the cast of August: Osage County? “I like to be in very popular things. I love that the play was so dynamic, and that audiences were rushing to see it. I thought – I want to get my hand in with those audiences.”
She talks about how discovering the deeper interior of her character has affected her, about being on the road with the new cast, and her most challenging scene – her dinner table announcement “It’s go-for-broke. You have to open yourself for it, and however it comes out, it has to be honest.”
Estelle has enjoyed roles on television (“Roseanne”), in films (Academy Award for playing Blanche Barrow in “Bonnie and Clyde”), but she always returns to her first love, the stage and credits her success to her training with Arthur Penn and Lee Strasburg. She talks about working with Ethel Merman in her Broadway debut – Happy Hunting, playing Maude in the musical version of the cult movie Harold and Maude, and being a Tony four time nominee and Tony nominator.
Estelle was the first female political reporter on network television during her five-year stint with “The Today Show” in the early 1950s and she talks about the state of the media today and the role of women in the media.
Theatre, at its best, Estelle says, is “enriching, educational and entertaining”. It’s how she describes this production of August: Osage County. We can find no better description of this time spent with Estelle Parsons. Enjoy.