Alison Trapp has the fewest lines of any character in August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, Denton Community Theatre’s current production.
But Trapp is probably the actress who put the most research into her character: Johnna Monteva, a young nursing student who is a tribeswoman of the Cheyenne Nation.
Trapp, a theater teacher educated at Texas Woman’s University, said she was determined not to play into any stereotype as she portrays a young American Indian woman hired to care for Violet Weston, the drug-addled matriarch of a family so toxic it comes close to straining the goodwill of audiences.
“I wanted to avoid doing any of those,” Trapp said before a rehearsal, alluding to the offensive style in which white actors have historically portrayed Native American men and women. She wanted to avoid the wooden stoicism, the brutish savage or the quiet squaw who giggles behind her hand.
Trapp started on the Internet and followed the search engine to a Cheyenne Arapaho group in Oklahoma, the setting for August: Osage County. It also led her to a Cheyenne linguist named Gordon Yellow Man.
“He was really amazing,” she said. “He put his staff on all my questions, and then he invited me to a powwow on Labor Day weekend.”
Trapp went to the powwow with her husband and was surprised to learn Gordon Yellow Man was a chief. She and her husband stayed with him as guests, spending the night in his teepee.
“He was really great, and very generous,” Trapp said.
The character of Johnna Monteva is mostly a silent witness to the dysfunction in the Weston household. As the extended family gathers in an aging, stuffy house to mediate a crisis, it’s Johnna who sees and speaks the truth.
Denton Community Theatre’s production of August: Osage County runs through next weekend at the Campus Theatre, and there is a 2 p.m. performance today.
For reservations, call 940-382-1915 or visit the box office at 1 p.m. today. The theater is located at 314 E. Hickory St.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
What: a comic tragedy by Tracy Letts staged by Denton Community Theatre
When: 2 p.m. today; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sept. 28
Where: Campus Theatre, 214 W. Hickory St.
Details: Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors ages 62 and older, and $10 for students with valid ID. For reservations, call 940-382-1915 from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Rated R for adult themes and language.
On the Web: www.dentoncommunitytheatre.com