While clothes don’t ‘make the man,’ they help dramatize him in ‘Salesman’

Posted: May 7, 2011 in Uncategorized


As The Woman dons a lacy black slip and stockings, Willy Loman is perched on the corner of the hotel bed. He pulls on a pair of worn shoes and straightens his aged three-piece suit, looking into the mirror. He watches as the woman steps into her shoes and comes over to straighten his tie.

As opening day Friday draws near, the actors are sinking deeper and deeper into their characters. At practices they are no longer Chelsie, Maxx, or Leon, but Linda, Biff and Willy. To further embody their characters, they don the clothing of the 50s.

Gone are the flip-flops, T-shirts and shorts. They have been replaced with suits, lavish dresses and 50s era hats. The costumes allow the cast to forget schoolwork and sports practices, focusing instead upon the important details of character portrayal.

As The Woman smoothes down Willy’s rumpled tie, he is reminded of his wife, Linda, and the many times she has helped him do just the same. He is drawn back in memory to a time when everything was less complex. In those times his guilt didn’t weigh him down like his heavy suitcase filled with products he couldn’t sell. He and Linda enjoyed a simpler, happier life.

In “Death of a Salesman,” costumes help tell this story. Linda wore her hair curled and her dresses unwrinkled, her apron unstained. His sons, Biff and Happy, ran through the yard without a care but for coming sports matches. They wore school sweaters and donned football pads, sneakers and nice pants. Years later, wearing tired suit pants and jackets, they are no longer so carefree.

Troubles with money and employment are a constant weight they are unable to leave behind. They meet with businessmen in well-fitted suits and crisp hats and are able only to glimpse the life of riches. Then it disappears behind an oak desk on which lays a gold fountain pen.

Early rehearsals were about blocking and lines, and back then, this cast’s actors had little to aid them in getting into character. Costumes, although they may seem less important than other aspects, help guide the actors in their performance. They now both look and feel the part as production day draws near.


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