Dennis Letts, Actor Who Appeared in Son's August: Osage County, Dead at 73

Obituaries   Dennis Letts, Actor Who Appeared in Son's August: Osage County, Dead at 73
Dennis Letts, the patrician actor who created the role of Beverly Weston — the father who goes missing at the top of the acclaimed Chicago and Broadway play, August: Osage County — died Feb. 22, his son playwright Tracy Letts told the Chicago Tribune.

Dennis Letts in August: Osage County
Dennis Letts in August: Osage County Photo by Joan Marcus

Mr. Letts' final role as an actor was in his son's most embraced and popular play, which is currently an audience and critical sensation at Broadway's Imperial Theatre. A failed poet whose marriage is soaked in booze and pills, Beverly hires a housekeeper in the opening scene of the play, and then mysteriously vanishes. The event prompts a reunion of the dysfunctional Weston family.

The juicy play was inspired by Letts' family history, and is set in the territory from whence the family came — Oklahoma. Mr. Letts died of cancer in Tulsa, OK. He was 73 years old, the Trib reported. He left the Broadway show in late January.

Mr. Letts created the role in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's world premiere of August in summer 2007, and moved with the troupe to Broadway. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2007 after the Windy City run.

"His choice to persevere with the New York production in the face of his devastating diagnosis is a testament to his love for the project and the people involved," Tracy Letts said in a statement. "Dad had a full and fascinating life, and August: Osage County was the cherry on top."

August will move from Broadway's large Imperial to the more intimate Music Box on Broadway in the spring. There is buzz of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award potential for the humor-laced soap-operatic drama. According to the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Letts was a college professor who specialized in literature and writing. He taught at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. He began acting late in his career, at age 50.

Mr. Letts has appeared in more than 40 films and television shows as a character actor, including "Little Boy Blue," "Infamous," "Secondhand Lions," "Cast Away," "A Perfect World," "Bloodsuckers From Outer Space" and "Where the Heart Is." Recent theatre work includes two original plays performed in Austin, TX: Dead Presidents' Club by Larry L. King and Sonny's Last Shot by Lawrence Wright.

Survivors include his wife, Billie; brother Ray Don; and three sons, Tracy, Dana and Shawn. A memorial service for Mr. Letts will be Feb. 28 at Mallett Funeral Home Chapel in Wagoner, OK.

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