The Tony-winning actor Tracy Letts only discovered acting because somebody blackmailed his father into starring in a community theater play.
Letts, who as a writer (“August: Osage County”) has won both a Tony and a Pulitzer to go along with his acting trophy (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”), tells the story on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. The show was the 1953 romantic comedy “The Solid Gold Cadillac” at a community theater in Tishomingo, Okla., not far from Letts’ hometown, Tulsa.
“The director had asked my father to do it,” Letts explains on the podcast. “My father was an amateur actor at the time. He was a schoolteacher, but he did some college and community theater. The director knew my dad and asked him to do it, and dad didn’t want to drive to Tishomingo. It was too far away. So she asked me to be in it, at the age of 15, knowing that dad would have to drive me to Tishomingo. So dad said, ‘All right, I might as well be in it.’ That was my first play.”
Letts is having a busy year, with his latest play, “The Minutes,” debuting at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in November, around the same time that “Lady Bird,” the Greta Gerwig film in which he stars, opens. Earlier in the spring, his new play “Linda Vista” premiered at Steppenwolf, and he had a lead role in the indie movie “The Lovers” alongside Debra Winger.
Letts talk about all that and more in the new episode of “Stagecraft,” in which he also talks about the importance of Chicago in his development as an actor and a writer, why he’s happy not to have had a stage role lately, and why he’s never written a part for himself.
Listen to the episode with the player above, or listen and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or Soundcloud.