Ponca Playhouse Presents August: Osage County

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Interview with Todd Stuart

Our Interview with Todd Stuart who plays Bill Fordham, the husband of Barbara Weston in "August: Osage County"

In "August: Osage County" actor Todd Stuart plays the part of Barbara's husband Bill Fordham. Bill is a university professor who is sleeping with one of his students. He doesn't live with Barb and daughter Jean, but when he hears Beverly Weston is missing he comes to Oklahoma to be with his family. He struggles with Barbara because he loves her but can't manage to get along with her.

Read our interview with Todd Stuart in which he describes his character, explains how he prepared for the role, talks about the most challenging part of playing the role, and tells us why "August: Osage County" is important.

Todd will be performing in "August: Osage County" at Ponca Playhouse. The play opens on Thursday July 19 and will run until July 29. Call the Playhouse at 580-765-5360 for tickets to see the show. Or come on down to the Playhouse ticket office at 301 S. 1st street and pick out your seats during office hours Monday to Friday, 11 am to 3 pm.

How would you describe Bill Fordham? What is he like?

Bill Fordham is the son-in-law, married to the oldest daughter, Barbara. In the play, we're from Oklahoma, but we moved to Colorado and have been away from the family for a while. And because Beverly's missing, we have flown back to Oklahoma to be with Violet in Pawhuska as the story unfolds.

How do you approach playing the role of Bill?

There's separation issues but there's also him wanting to be there for Barbara during this trying time, and I think that's something I can try to bring out in the role. Bill is coming into this story damaged in a way, as far as the relationship with Barbara goes. And I think he's trying to find that balance between being there for Barbara, Violet and the rest of the family--and everything else going on in his life outside the scope of the show.

Tell me about yourself, your past theater experience. Where might we have seen you before?

I did theater in high school, and some theater in college. Before moving to Ponca City in 2008, I lived in Stillwater and was active with Town and Gown Theatre there. I was in “Moon Over Buffalo,” which featured a great ensemble cast. I was in Neil Simon's “Rumors” as well.

My first show at the Playhouse was “All My Sons,” and I played Joe Keller. I've been an inmate in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” a prosecutor in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a Reverend in “The Crucible.”

My lovely bride Sam Stuart and I were cast as Charles and Ruth Condomine in “Blithe Spirit.” We got to play husband and wife, on stage, at the Ponca Playhouse.

Your favorite role so far?

Wow. I liked playing Harding in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I loved playing Joe Keller in All My Sons. It was a very challenging role because I went from a straight from a comedy at Town & Gown right into one of the heaviest Arthur Miller dramas there is. I had to mentally change gears really fast to prepare for that role. But I had a great director who really ... I got really frustrated with her during the production but looking back I realize she was just challenging me to stretch out of my comfort zone… it worked.

Do you think that this play is important? Is our audience ready for this play?

I think our audience is ready for this show. There may be some uncomfortable moments, but only because members of the audience are going to be able to relate to something that happens during the show.

There are relationship issues, substance abuse issues, and all sorts of other things happening. I would venture a guess that majority of families in America (and certainly here in Oklahoma) are going through one or more of those things at this very moment.

Anything you want to say to the person who might be on the fence about seeing “August: Osage County”?

To me, this play is kind of like “that uncle that nobody likes to talk about.” But again, you're going to relate to something that happens at some point during the show, because everybody's been there.

This Thanksgiving will be my fifth holiday with my wife and her family. And there are different brother and sisters-in-law, and other family members that show up at the matriarch's house, and - there's always several things happening… little side stories going around during the Thanksgiving dinner that to me add to the character of the gathering. The same elements (for better or worse) exist in “August: Osage County,” and I just think you're going to be able to relate to it from that aspect alone.

Anything to add?

This is a show a show set here in Oklahoma, written by an Oklahoman playwright, and part of the “Oklahoma Pride” Series. We’ve got a fantastic cast and director. It's a great fundraiser for the Ponca Playhouse, and I want to encourage everyone to show up and enjoy the show. Bring a friend!

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