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For Tracy Letts, joy and sorrow

Folks who share Joseph Adler's taste in theater -- wild, out-there edgy, no shame and no holds barred -- may remember with fondness (perhaps that's too genteel a word) the excellent productions of Killer Joe and Bug that Adler presented at GableStage.  Both plays were written by Tracy Letts, a Chicago-based actor and playwright who is also a proud member of the celebrated Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Dennis_letts Letts is widely expected to be this year's winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play for August: Osage County, a dense, funny tragicomedy about the reunion of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family after the disappearance of its patriarch.  The role, that of hard-drinking college professor Beverly Weston, was played by Letts' father Dennis, a retired college professor who began acting at the age of 50.  On Friday, Dennis Letts (shown in a Joan Marcus photo of August: Osage County at left) died at 73 of lung cancer in Tulsa.

The elder Letts originated the role at Steppenwolf, then made his Broadway debut in the play, though he had received his grim diagnosis in the interim.  He performed in the play, which will soon move from Broadway's Imperial Theatre to the Music Box, until late last month.

Tracy Letts, who may soon know the joy of play-writing's highest honor, released this statement about his father:  "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.  Dad had a full and fascinating life, and August: Osage County was the cherry on top."

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