By Production Dramaturg, Cohen Ambrose
Tonight, the Montana Repertory Theatre opens its 2016 National Tour of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons here in Missoula with its Opening Night Gala. The festivities will begin with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, then the gala audience will see the production, followed by drinks, dessert, and dancing in the PARTV Center.
Over the past few months, Artistic Director Greg Johnson and I have been waxing lyrical on this blog about Montana Rep, our ethos, our taste in literature, Arthur Miller’s centenary in October, 2015, his legacy in the American theatrical canon, many in-depth features about the production of All My Sons, and interviews with the All My Sons directorial and design teams. It’s been a journey since the production team launched its work nearly a year ago with casting in New York and in the Northwest region last winter, design meetings in the spring, the set build in the summer, ongoing conversations and dramaturgical preparations through the Fall, and, of course, rehearsals, which began January 4th, 2016.
I want to take a few paragraphs to review the last few weeks and months of ideas and information, and share a slideshow of some recent rehearsal photos:
Arthur Miller’s breakout play in 1947, All My Sons launched his career as a playwright. The play spoke to various universal values to mid-20th Century America, including returning World War Two veterans, large and small manufacturing businesses, various renditions of a confused sense of the American Dream, mixed values about allegiances to country versus family, and many more communities and ways of thinking. The play continues to speak to large universal questions about familial relationships, war profiteering, the dangers of excessive pride, and other major themes we face in our rapidly changing society.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been in and out of the Montana Theatre on the University of Montana campus to sneak a peek and take some photos of the rehearsal process. Directing Jere Hodgin has been carefully working with the actors and the design team to craft the Kellers’ world, their backyard, and their kingdom. He continues to speak of Miller’s play like it’s a boxing match, reminding actors to stay at the ready, to perch on the balls of their feet, ready to pounce at any given moment; to encircle and to corner one another in order to get what they want from each other or to prevent the truth from being revealed. During a recent rehearsal, in a conversation with Mike Boland, who plays Joe Keller in the play, I heard Jere compare Joe to Bernie Madoff, the fraudster and former Wall Street stockbroker and financier: he said something about how Joe, like Madoff, is somehow able to pull the wool over his own eyes just enough to justify his actions. Incidentally, in an unconnected interaction this morning, a student of mine turned me on to an article in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine in which Hollywood film star Richard Dreyfuss was interviewed about playing Madoff in the ABC miniseries Madoff, which is set to premier Feb. 3. He says about Madoff: “If you want to understand Bernie, read [Arthur Miller’s play] All My Sons. If he didn’t get caught early and didn’t blow his brains out, [Joe Keller] would have grown into Bernie Madoff. And would have handed his son the company.”
The cast and crew of the Rep’s production of All My Sons are fresh out of the oven of creative discovery and having an audience will likely prove the ingredient they need to fully uncover the immense complexities this play has to offer them and their audiences. Make sure to order your tickets and come see Montana Rep’s 2016 National Tour of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons in Missoula before it heads out on the road.