BWW Interviews: Keegan Theatre¬'s Mark A. Rhea on Opening AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and His Life¬'s Work


If home is where the heart is, Mark A. Rhea’s heart is in the right place. His artistic home for the last 15 years is the Keegan Theatre.

According to their mission statement, “The Keegan Theatre exists to explore the human condition, present the richness of Ireland’s theatrical tradition, and provide an environment for artists to freely develop their creative potential.”

Located in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, D.C., in the intimate Church Street Theatre, the Keegan has earned a reputation for high quality acting, due in part to a dedicated resident Acting Company. Regular tours to Ireland have solidified their reputation, most recently with a revival of the THE CRUCIBLE, first mounted during the 2003 season.

Keegan’s associate artistic director Susan Marie Rhea directed the Arthur Miller play both times. Susan’s husband Mark A. Rhea played the titular role of John Proctor.

Mark is the Keegan's producing artistic director, and along with current resident company members Sheri S. Herren and Eric Lucas, he one of the founders of the Keegan.

During recent seasons, Rhea has continued his double and sometimes triple duties of acting, directing and even designing scenery at the Keegan. As an actor, in addition to THE CRUCIBLE, Mark appeared in TWELVE ANGRY MEN as the prejudiced Juror Number 10, the bitter ex-judge William Ruffin in Peter Coy’s A SHADOW OF HONOR, and Eddie, the confused rodeo stuntman, in Sam Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE.

As director – and sometimes scenic designer – Mark’s recent credits include the musical SPRING AWAKENING (co-directed with wife Susan), and the world premiere of Matthew Keenan’s AN IRISH CAROL, which returns for the Keegan’s 2012-13 season. Rhea earned a Helen Hayes Award nomination – outstanding director for a resident company – for the 2012 production of RENT.

His latest effort puts him in the director’s chair once again, this time for the final production of Keegan’s 15th season, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. The darkly comedic play by Tracy Letts took the 2008 Tony Award for best play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Keegan's production runs August 3 through September 2, 2012.

Originating at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY arrived on Broadway in 2007. With most of the original company intact, it toured to England and Australia. The play puts an anything-but-typical Midwestern American family on display, warts and all. The grown-up Weston children gather in their family home after the disappearance of their father. Secrets are laid bare, and long-buried truths are exposed as the clan of Oklahomans clash. At the center of the scathingly humorous play is their pill-popping, acid tongued matriarch, Violet Weston.

For information about The Keegan Theatre’s production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, click here.

Mark A. Rhea was gracious enough to talk about AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and the Keegan Theatre prior to the August 3 opening.

august osage county keeganJW: Why AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY?

That’s an easy question. It is a powerhouse of a play. It is the type of theatre I feel we really handle well. I felt we had the actors to do it justice.

JW:  Describe the play to someone who has never seen it in just two words?

Disturbingly funny. 

JW:  Is there a key piece of advice or direction you gave the cast as they prepared their roles?

I told them don’t try to make a moment be funny or horrible.  Just be honest and true to the characters, no matter the situation. Go out there and let the situation of what is happening in each particular scene drive your character’s raw emotion. Live it!

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Jeffrey Walker Jeff Walker teaches theatre arts in Northern Virginia. He is also an award-winning theatre critic. Currently he is a regular contributor to DC Theatre Scene and Broadway World's DC region. He also writes Stage Views, a regular column for the theatre reviews and views for the Culpeper Times. Jeff is also an experienced director and actor and has performed in musicals, Shakespeare, classics, operettas, and contemporary works.

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