In the Spotlife: Denise Freestone, 'August: Osage County'

Denise Burson Freestone as Violet Weston and Sydney Parks Smith as Barbara Fordham in OpenStage Theatre’s ‘August: Osage County.’ Joe Hovorka Photography.

(‘In the Spotlife’ is a regular feature of the DCPA NewsCenter calling attention to performers in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.)


Denise Burson Freestone, who plays Violet Weston in Openstage Theatre & Company’s ‘August: Osage County,’ founded the troupe 44 years ago with her husband, Bruce K. Freestone, who is playing Beverly Weston.  

  • Hometown: Denver
  • Home now: Fort Collins
  • High School: South High School
  • College: Bachelor of Arts, Colorado State University
  • What have you done for us lately? I played Aoife in OpenStage’s Outside Mullingar
  • What’s next? I will be directing The Three Musketeers for OpenStage from June 3-July 1 with performances at at 907 Worthington Circle. 
  • What is August: Osage County all about? This Pulitzer Prize-winning story centers around the Weston family, who all come home after the patriarch, a world-class poet and alcoholic named Beverly Weston, disappears. The matriarch, Violet (Vi) is depressed and addicted to pain pills and “truth-telling.” Her daughters Barbara, Ivy and Karen are each harboring their own deep secrets. Adding to the family dynamic is Violet’s sister Mattie Fae – who is well-trained in the Weston family art of cruelty – and her husband and son. Tensions heat up and boil over in the ruthless August heat as this ferociously maladjusted family finds themselves holed up in their large family home on the desolate plains of Osage County, Okla.
  • Tell us about the challenge of playing Violet: In addition to being an addict, Violet is vulnerable, vicious, manipulative, broken – the list goes on. Her deterioration through the arc of the play is a phenomenal acting challenge. Violet gets under my skin in an incredibly rewarding way as an actress, and her story personally reverberates through my bones. The “meat” and breadth the role offers is infinite, and it is an honor to wrestle with playwright Tracy Letts’ passionate, honest, magnificent script.
  • What do you love most about this play? I believe Tracy Letts’ play is a new American classic that will live for decades and beyond in the world of theatre.
  • What do you love most about OpenStage? As a co-founder with my husband, Bruce, in 1973, this company is incredibly close to my heart. The OpenStage family of artists are talented, passionate and dedicated, and it is a joy to work with each and every one of them, whether a veteran or a newcomer to the company.

  • Read John Moore’s 2009 interview with Tracy Letts

  • What do you love most about the Fort Collins community? We believe that true change happens in communities rather than states and nations, and that, through the shared theatrical experience, our community becomes more broad-minded, tolerant and civil.
  • What’s one thing most people don’t know about you? Over the decades, I have supported my addiction to theatre by working a plethora of jobs for numerous employers. In this journey, every job I have worked has given me knowledge that I have applied to my theatrical passion, whether it is as simple as mastering technology that helps to run the day-to-day business of OpenStage … or printing, design and layout for marketing the company … or as complicated as researching organizational culture while working for Colorado State University’s president and applying that knowledge to nurturing a theatrical culture where artists celebrate each other’s work … or immersing myself in leadership styles and gender cultures as the Assistant Director of CSU’s Institute of Women and Leadership, and again, applying that knowledge to the theatre.
  • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? I have been passionate about civil rights and the environment since my activist days as a hippie in the 1960s and ’70s, and I am shocked by the current political climate. Bookends for my adult life: It’s again time to be outspoken, visible and engaged.
  • (Photo above and right: Denise Burson Freestone in Openstage Theatre & Company’s 2002 production of ‘Wit.’)

    OpenStage’s August: Osage County: Ticket information
    • Written by Tracy Letts
    • Directed by Dulcie Willis
    • Through March 18
    • Performances:
    7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23
    8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
    2 p.m. Sundays
    • Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins
    • Tickets $25
    • Info: 970-484-5237 or

    Cast list:

    • Bruce K. Freestone: Beverly Weston

    •Denise Burson Freestone: Violet Weston

    •Sydney Parks Smith: Barbara Fordham

    •Shannon Parr: Bill Fordham
    •Rachael Jacobs: Jean Fordham

    •Nicole Gawronski: Ivy Weston

    •Rebecca Spafford: Karen Weston

    •Judith Allen: Mattie Fay Aiken

    •Charlie Ferrie: Charlie Aiken

    •Bas Meindertsma: Little Charles Aiken

    •Jennifer Lauren Bowers: Johnna Monevata

    •James Burns: Steve Heidebrecht

    •Mark Terzani: Sheriff Deon Gilbeau

    More ‘In the Spotlife’ profiles:

    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West’s theMumblings
    Meet Mark Collins of And Toto Too’s Lost Creatures
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse’s God of Carnage
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center’s Tartuffe

    Meet John Hauser of Curious Theatre’s Hand to God
    Meet Jim Hunt of Buntport’s The Zeus Probem
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre’sThe Crucible
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage’s Mid-Life 2
    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center’s The Firestorm
    Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre’s The Firestorm
    Meet Angela Mendez of Beauty and the Beast
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro’s El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s Ripcord
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages’ Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Cory Sapienza of Miners Alley Playhouse’s Hir
    Meet Sean Scrutchins of the Arvada Center’s Bus Stop
    Meet Jane Shirley of Santa’s Big Red Sack
    Meet Petra Ulyrich of Germinal Stage-Denver’s Johnny Got His Gun
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center’s Sister Act
    Meet Sharon Kay White of the Arvada Center’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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