Fifty years ago Montana Rep began. Just over fifty years ago, Barefoot in the Park was produced on Broadway, jumpstarting a career unmatched in modern times. We feel it is fitting in this auspicious season to honor and produce one of the true giants of the American theatre. Please join us as we celebrate a half-century of great theatre!
We take special care in choosing our fall tour plays, selecting works that captivate the imaginations of our young audience and speak to issues they face. To that end, we review Montana middle school and high school curricula and solicit suggestions from our community liaisons throughout the year.
Learn more about this tour, our acting workshops, and answers to frequently asked questions in our tour brochure.
ALL MY SONS by Arthur Miller
The power of Miller’s story about war’s consequences for both veterans and civilians—of honor and sacrifice, of guilt, honesty, hope, and love—is as relevant today as when the play premiered in 1947.
All My Sons teaches us that as we struggle in the aftermath of war and conflict, compassion and forgiveness provide the only means by which we will heal.
To learn more, read our 2016 tour brochure (PDF).
As I sit writing this, it is October 17, 2015, the 100th birthday of Arthur Miller. I find myself very moved reflecting on this benchmark. Arthur Miller means so much to me. Almost by accident I viewed, on my family’s old Zenith console TV, the CBS Network version of Death of a Salesman. I was 16 years old. Instantly, I understood the power of drama. This masterpiece is about an everyman, very much like my own father. Dad was a salesman who used to bring me along on trips throughout his “region”. I remember going to a barbershop in Princeton, NJ and the barber not only telling me he cut Albert Einstein’s hair (a rather questionable claim) but was able to point out to me the venerable old genius riding by on his bicycle that Friday afternoon so long ago. Such memories. So it was with these deep impressions from my youth that I viewed the downfall of Willy Loman. I had been a musical comedy kid until then, and this changed everything. I felt that if I could make people feel the way I felt that night I would have accomplished something, and I have spent most of my adult life in that pursuit. In 2002, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and directed Salesman for the Montana Repertory Theatre. It is a high point of my career. Miller felt so deeply: he had such passion for people and the traps in which we all are caught. Mankind’s struggle for authenticity, meaning and hope for a better future were what drove his plays and his soul. All Americans respond to his questioning voice. He was never still, always challenging, always searching. It is this restlessness, this longing for “more” that is so much a reflection of the quintessential American Character that Miller so eloquently captured, and why, generation after generation he is read, produced, and admired.
In producing All My Sons for our 2016 National Tour we continue the Montana Rep’s investigation into the American Character. In All My Sons, an early Miller masterpiece, we witness a strong and passionate example of the “Miller Spirit.”
“…the truth, the first truth, probably, is that we are all connected, watching one another. Even the trees.”
Today marks the Centennial of Arthur Miller’s birth. This time of year, the Montana Rep begins turning much of its attention to gearing up for the National Tour. As many of the Rep’s audiences already know, the 2016 National Tour will present a production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, rehearsals for which will begin this coming January. Therefore, we feel it is important to focus our upcoming blog posts on Arthur Miller’s life, his works, and some important themes and ideas he explores in his plays, and most importantly, 1947’s All My Sons.
Born in Manhattan to an Austrian immigrant and a New Yorker, Arthur Miller spent his childhood living on the Upper West Side in relative wealth until his father’s business collapsed in the stock market crash of 1929. Miller spent his teens and early twenties living in Brooklyn, working odd jobs to help his family and pay for his college tuition at the University of Michigan, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English in 1938.
Miller’s early professional playwriting career began and ended quickly with the Federal Theatre Project, an agency of Roosevelt’s controversial New Deal, which congress shut down in 1939 due to suspicions of a Communist infiltration. 1940 saw the first Broadway production of a Miller play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, which won the Theatre Guild’s National Award, but was panned by the critics and closed after only four performances. At just 30 years old, Miller began writing All My Sons, his final attempt as a playwright. He decided that if the play did not succeed, he would abandon the form and focus solely on fiction and journalism. All My Sons opened on Broadway in January, 1947 and ran for 328 performances.
Despite being “a very depressing play in a time of great optimism” (Rifkin 1994), as Miller once called All My Sons, The New York Times’ Brooks Atkinson wrote two Sunday pieces and a glowing review, helping the play gain traction and go on to win New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Tony Awards for best author.
In 1948, Miller wrote what is often cited as the most studied and important American play ever written. Death of a Salesman opened on Broadway in 1949, ran for 742 performances, won New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Tony Awards for best author, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (The Montana Rep produced the play for its 2002 National Tour). Riding the momentum of this success, Miller began researching the Salem witch trials of 1692 and wrote The Crucible (1953), a period piece that serves as an allegory of the House Un-american Activities Committee (HUAC) search for Communist sympathizers within American arts industries. Miller himself was called on to testify before HUAC in 1956, refused to name names, and was acquitted. Today, The Crucible is Miller’s most frequently produced work both nationally and internationally. All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and his 1955 tragedy chronicling the downfall of a Brooklyn Navy Yard dock worker, A View From the Bridge, comprise Miller’s next most frequently produced works.
Aside from his plays, Miller is perhaps most famous for his very public marriage to Hollywood actress and public figure Marilyn Monroe, a relationship he chronicles in some detail in his most overtly autobiographical play After the Fall (1964). The two were married on June 29, 1956 and divorced in 1961 shortly before the premier of the film
adaptation of Miller’s novella The Misfits (1957), in which Monroe starred. Monroe’s death in 1962 was classified as a probable suicide due to drug overdose.
Although Miller’s later career was also incredibly prolific, producing film adaptations of his plays and novels, including Death of a Salesman, starring Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich in 1984, and a highly successful version of The Crucible in 1996, starring Paul Scofield, Winona Ryder, and Miller’s son-in-law Daniel Day-Lewis. In 1987, Miller published his autobiography, Timebends: a life, in which he perhaps best summarizes his own life and work:
And so the coyotes are out there earnestly trying to arrange their lives to make more coyotes possible, not knowing that it is my forest, of course. And I am in this room from which I can sometimes look out at dusk and see them warily moving through the barren winter trees, and I am, I suppose, doing what they are doing, making myself possible and those who come after me. At such moments I do not know whose land this is that I own, or whose bed I sleep in. In the darkness out there they see my light and pause, muzzles lifted, wondering who I am and what I am doing here in this cabin under my light. I am a mystery to them until they tire of it and move on, but the truth, the first truth, probably, is that we are all connected, watching one another. Even the trees.
Miller died in 2005 after battles with cancer, pneumonia, and heart disease at the age of 89. The Montana Rep is very proud to announce its National Tour of All My Sons during the centennial of Miller’s birth.