The directors of “Death of a Salesman” — teachers Neale Gay and Scott Whitney and student Rachel Glod — speak today about the importance of this play, this playwright, the Mohawk drama program’s goals and how the cast is responding to this story.
Neale Gay, on the playwright: “Arthur Miller (photo at left) is, perhaps, the last American playwright who was a household name. Everyone knew who he was and looked to him to make sense of an America that was greatly changing after the tumult of the first half of the 20th century. Throughout the 40s, 50s, and 60s, what Miller did and said became news. That’s powerful for an artist.”
Scott Whitney on the choice of this play: “After a few years of producing mostly existential and absurdist works, we wanted to focus on a text that is both well-known and quintessentially American. In the arc of our development as a theater department, it feels a bit like this is our debut, given how challenging Miller’s opus is both technically and dramatically. Furthermore, we were encouraged to take on a play of this magnitude based on the strength of our talent pool this year.
We were encouraged to take on a play of this magnitude based on the strength of our talent pool this year.
“Since staging Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ at Mohawk three years ago, it’s been something of an understanding between Neale Gay and myself that we would never settle for a ‘high school play,’ ” Whitney said. “We want audiences to find emotional resonance in our actors’ performances and have a theatrical experience that goes beyond standard drama department fare. So far, so good and we’ve every reason to believe that this play is going to continue in that tradition.”
Rachel Glod on how the cast is responding to the play’s characters and issues: “In one way or another it seems that every member of the cast can relate to the story of Willy Loman. As they analyzes the words of Miller they become painfully aware of the characters’ dynamic personalities, their bare, raw human characteristics, their flaws.
“It takes an emotional toll, but ultimately the tragic story of not only Willy Loman, but also Linda, Biff, and Happy Loman, serves as an outlet for introspection into their own lives and what they want out of them. It is our hope to give this opportunity to the audience and for it to be as significant and palpable as it is for the cast.”
Neale Gay on the meaning of “Death of a Salesman” today: “This is a play with characters that are immediately relatable to our actors, as they are reaching a point in their lives when they understand that their parents occupy more space in the world than merely a protector, a provider, and a teacher.
“Namely, they see their parents are human. Willy Loman is a man the world outgrew, and that’s a condition everyone will have to one day consider as they see their parents age, and they themselves progress from youth to adulthood, from adulthood to old age.”
Scott Whitney on this production’s talent pool: “Leon Tuthill (who plays Willy Loman and is seen at right in an early rehearsal) is something of an ‘old soul,’ as they say, and has a reputation for spot-on imitations of our faculty, so we thought that we’d put that to productive use. Chelsie Field has given us two incredible performances, in Ionesco’s ‘Rhinoceros’ last year and this year’s Dorothy Parker monologue. It would have made sense to undertake ‘Salesman’ just on the strength of their pairing, but we found ourselves with an equally strong supporting cast.”