ACTOR SPOTLIGHT: John Reilly in “August: Osage County”

One of most amazing things about community theater is the actors who give their talent and time so that we can be entertained, moved and inspired. At Towngate Theatre, many talented people share their creative skills with us.

Actors new to the stage enter the realm of acting with a fresh face and vigor. Veteran actors honed their skills and bring a polished craft to their performances. John Reilly is just such a veteran, having acted on the stage at Towngate Theatre for more than 30 years. He plays Beverly Weston in Towngate’s current production of “August: Osage County,” which continues with shows this coming weekend.


A current resident of Bethlehem, WV, John was born in Jersey City, NJ. Growing up in a military family, he spent his early life moving  to many different locations. John began acting and directing in 1964 while he was in college. In 1968, he began a 40-year career as an English, speech and theater teacher. Following his retirement from teaching, John took a job as a legal proofreader at Williams Lea, where he still works today, and he continues acting and directing.

John has graced the Towngate stage many times, having first performed here in “The Lion in Winter” in 1983. He has also directed at Towngate Theatre the past three seasons, for such productions as “Harvey,” “George Washington Slept Here,” and “Noises Off.” He was previously seen on the stage acting in “The Cripple of Inishmaan” at Towngate; “The Crucible” and “Prelude to a Kiss” at the Little Lake Theater in Canonsburg and “The Master Builder” at Quantum Theatre in Pittsburgh.


John is joining a great cast in “August: Osage County,” the closing play of the 2017-2018 Towngate season. He plays Beverly Weston, the patriarch of the family. Beverly’s actions at the beginning of the play are the driving force behind the narrative.

John said the nature of the play was what drew him to audition for the show. “It’s a great actors’ play, requiring a genuine ensemble,” John said. “More and more I discover that what I love about theater is the sense of communion and the sense of teamwork—creative teamwork.”


John said that, while he liked the show already, he has grown to love the show more and more over the course of rehearsals. “Every night, I hear a line or become aware of a character relationship that rings true,” John said. “And it gives me insight and expands my consciousness of what it is to be human. Nothing is fixed in how we perceive the reality of this family. They come together and they separate; they do the wrong thing, but we see that they do it because it’s what they think they need to do. And the remarkable thing is that we understand it. It’s too easy to label them as dysfunctional. They are functioning the best they can given the baggage they carry—just like the rest of us.”

John finds both similarities between himself and the character he is playing, but also stark differences. “He is an addict living with an addict and sees it as an arrangement,” John said of the character. “He lives in hell. I hope I’ve managed to sidestep that.”

When asked what he does when he is not performing, John said, “I used to say ‘read, travel, fine dining, museums’, but all of them pale next to sharing all of those things with friends.”


“August: Osage County” is a black comedy by American playwright Tracy Letts. Centering on a tense family reunion in a small Oklahoma town, the play is dominated by Violet Weston, an eccentric family matriarch who has a contentious relationship with her husband and children. When a family tragedy brings all the survivors together again, old wounds and hurts are reopened as the family is forced to confront its past and presence.

It has been staged around the world and in 2013 was adapted into a star-studded feature film including Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both of whom received Academy Award nominations.


Remaining performances for Towngate Theater’s production of “August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts are May 18-19. Curtain is at 8pm. Admission is $12.50/$11 OI members. Purchase tickets for this show or any Towngate show in advance at, by calling 304-242-7700, or at the door, if available.