Project Description

Death of a Salesman (Broadway)

Death of a Salesman (Broadway)

DEATH OF A SALESMAN, a drama by Arthur Miller, opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, Broadway on February 10, 1999 and closed on November 7, 1999, having grossed USD $15,190,655 during a run of 274 performances and 22 paid previews (previews began on January 22, 1999), with an average ticket price of $51.71.

Produced by Salesman Broadway LP; Produced by David Richenthal in association with Jerry Frankel; Associate Produced by PACE Theatrical Group, Inc. and Toby Simkin; Produced by special arrangement with The Roundabout Theatre Company; Original Producer: the Goodman Theatre. Presented by Jujamcyn Theatres.

Directed by Robert Falls; Incidental Music by Richard Woodbury; Set Design by Mark Wendland; Costume Design by Birgit Rattenborg Wise; Lighting Design by Michael S. Philippi and Sound Design by Richard Woodbury.

STARRING Brian Dennehy (Willy Loman); Elizabeth Franz (Linda); Kevin Anderson (Biff); Ted Koch (Happy); Howard Witt (Charley); Chelsea Altman (Letta); Kate Buddeke (The Woman); Barbara Eda-Young (Secretary); Allen Hamilton (Uncle Ben); Kent Klineman (Stanley); Stephanie March (Miss Forsythe); Steve Pickering (Howard Wagner); Richard Thompson (Bernard); Robert Breuler (Uncle Ben ) [replacement]; Ron Eldard (Biff ) [replacement]; Kathryn Layng (Miss Forsythe ) [replacement]; Philip LeStrange (Charley ) [replacement] and Laura Moss (Letta ) [replacement].

Understudies David Mogentale (Biff/Happy); Barbara Eda-Young (Linda); Steve Cell (Happy/Stanley/Bernard/Biff); Philip LeStrange (Charley/Willy Loman); Nina Landey (Letta/ The Woman/Secretary/Miss Forsythe); Philip LeStrange (Uncle Ben); Kent Klineman (Howard Wagner); Patrick Boll (Bernard/Happy/Stanley) [replacement]; Kathryn Layng (Letta/The Woman/Jenny) [replacement] and Edwin C. Owens (Uncle Ben/Charley) [replacement].

Assistant Set Designer: Jane Mancini; Assistant Set Designer: Paula Sjoblom; Assistant Costume Designer: Elea Crowther; Assistant Lighting Designer: Peter West; Assistant to the Lighting Designer: Miriam Hack; Dramaturg: Tom Creamer; Assistant to the Director: Raymond Bobgam; Casting by Bernard Telsey Casting, Inc.; Casting Associate: Bernie Telsey; Casting Associate: Will Cantler; Casting Associate: David Vacari; Casting Associate: Heidi Marshall; Casting Associate: Lori Sapasnick; Casting Associate: Jacqueline Pessan; Chicago Casting : Tara Lonzo; Casting Assistant: Victoria Pettibone; Casting Assistant: Bethany Grace Berg; Technical Supervisor: Neil A. Mazzella & Gene O’Donovan; Production Supervisor: Martin Gold; Production Stage Manager: Joseph Drummond; Production Stage Manager: Jane Grey [replacement]; Stage Managed by Robert Kellogg; Stage Managed by Philip Cusack [replacement] and Assistant Stage Managed by Philip Cusack.

General Managed by Robert Cole; General Managed by Steven Chaikelson; Company Managed by Lisa M. Poyer; Management Associate: Adriana Sanchez; Press Representative: Richard Kornberg; Press Representative: Don SummaRick MiramontezJim Byk; Press Assistant: Bryan Gmitter; Online Marketing by Toby Simkin; Marketing by Scott Walton Communications, Inc., Scott Walton & Hugh Hysell; Group Sales by Showtix; Group Sales by Pat Daily; Advertising by Serino Coyne, Inc.; Advertising by Tina Braun; Advertising by Beth Van Wassen; Photographer: Eric Y. Exit; Video Services by DWJ Television, Verne Mattson & Peter Bloc; Merchandising by Show Property, Inc., Randi Grossman, More Merchandising & George Fenmore and Theatre Displays by King Display, Inc. & Wayne Sapper.

Production Carpenter: James Kane; Production Electrician: Donald Beck; Assistant Electrician: Joseph Beck; Production Props: Heidi L. Brown; Production Sound Engineer: Valerie Spradling; Wardrobe Supervisor: Lorraine Borek; Dresser: Rhonda Clark & Karen Eiffert; Costume Construction by Carelli Costumes; Production Hair Supervisor: David Lawrence; Wigs by Bob Kelly Wig Creations; Production Assistant: Lisa Protzmann; Production Intern: Wesley Apfel and Production Intern: Alissa Reatz.

Assistant to Mr. Richenthal: Judy Insel; Legal Counsel: Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo and Elliot Brown; Banking by Chase Manhattan BankDavida L. AndrewsJoycelyn Lutchman, Gordon Haskett Capital Corporation & Anne Caruso; Insurance by J & H Marsh & McLennan, Robert Boyar & Kevin Glenn; Payroll by Castellana Payroll Services, Inc., & Lance Castellana; Accounting by Mark Mandel & Company, C.P.A., Mark Mandel & Joseph P. Manzelli, Jr.; Travel Services by JMC Travel & Oren Adar; Scenery Construction by Hudson Scenic Studio; Lighting Supply by Four Star Lighting and Sound Equipment by Sound Associates.

  • The Director is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc. an independent national labor union.
  • The Actors and Stage Managers employed in this production are members of Actor’s Equity Association, The union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.
  • United Scenic Artists represents the designers and scenic painters for the American Theatre.
    Backstage and Front of House Employees are represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (or I.A.T.S.E.)
  • The Press Agents, Company and House Managers employed in this production are represented by the Association of Theatrical Press Agents & Managers.

The Broadway theatre supersite Buy Broadway OnlineAs Founder and CEO of Theatre.com and BuyBroadway.com.  The pioneer in moving the Broadway industry onto the internet. The theatre press branded me as “Toby is the man pushing theatre, kicking and screaming, into cyberspace.” What started in 1989 as a Broadway industry service called ShowCall via dialup BBS for members of the League of American Theatre Producers evolved onto the world wide web in 1993, and shortly after this, the vast majority of Broadway shows (starting with my production of Victor/Victoria) and theatrical organizations followed. The “Super site of Broadway” became a publicly traded company, prior to my re-branding it as Theatre.com at the Minskoff Theatre.

The global theater supersite theatre.comDescribed by Variety Magazine as a “marketing powerhouse“, it was the single largest theatre community in the world with over 180,000 active members (in the 1990’s this was massive). From buying official Broadway tickets and souvenirs, providing detailed global show listings, interactive show study & educational guides, live streaming shows and events (including many Opening Nights live broadcasts), industry news from major theatre journalists, pictures and videos, games, messaging directly to Broadway cast’s backstage or even licensing a musical, theatre.com offered it all in a single, easy-to-use interface to theatregoers across North America and globally.

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Death of a Salesman
Broadway

DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy Death of a Salesman (Broadway) DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian Dennehy Death of a Salesman (Broadway)DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller (Broadway) starring Brian DennehyDeath of a Salesman Broadway Brian Dennehy and Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman Broadway Arthur Miller ShedArthur Miller writing in his Roxbury Studio in 1987Death of a Salesman Arthur Millers working notebook circa 1948 Death Of A Salesman Cast Headshots

aol Keyword BroadwayLive Chats with Arthur Miller and Brian Dennehy

In addition to all online marketing, I produced live chats on February 21, 1999 with Arthur Miller (live from his Roxbury, Connecticut residence in the afternoon) and Brian Dennehy (live from his Broadway dressing room that evening), in conjunction with AOL which drew 8,241 unique users – at the time, a world record.  Here is the complete transcript:

Transcript of AOL chat with Arthur Miller

AOLThe chat took place from his residence on February 21, 1999

AOL: We’d like to welcome Arthur Miller. Mr. Miller is joining us this evening from his home in Connecticut.

Question: How did you first imagine Willy Loman? Did he have the physical presence of a Lee Cobb or was he more like Dustin Hoffman?

Arthur Miller: Well, it was none of those. It was based really on an imaginary figure based on an uncle of mine. It didn’t come from any one person.  As for Dustin or Brian, I originally imagined him as a small man with a large wife. But the smaller actors weren’t able to convey the emotions…and we eventually wound up with Lee Cobb, who weighed about 200 lbs.

Question:  Were you able to attend the first opening of Death of a Salesman, 50 years ago?

Arthur Miller: Of course. I was there, and I was at all the rehearsals.  I am usually very much involved in rehearsing the play. The first production was — how should I put it — more romantic. The set was a single house with an imaginary feeling to it… it looked like it could be blown away with a slight wind.  The current set is much tougher — more black and white as opposed to color. And the new set revolves and changes — on the first set nothing moved.  It’s a matter of taste — I think there’s advantages to both.

Question: You’ve said that there’s no way to do straight plays on Broadway anymore,  without risking bankruptcy. How should we respond to this? Why is drama so successful in London?

Arthur Miller: Everything here costs about a third more than it does in London. The British Theater has been kept alive by government subsidy for the arts — which we don’t have here. They don’t have to have a sellout hit every time they open a play — so you get more plays and more productions.  Here, investors would rather put their money into a musical than a straight play – more of a surefire hit.

Question: Who was your favorite Willy Loman?

Arthur Miller: My favorite Willy Loman probably would be Lee Cobb, who was the originator of the part. reason most likely is the original production is when you discover the play… I’ve had many wonderful actors play the part — George Scott, Dustin Hoffman — but the heat of the discovery is the first time.

Question: Why do you think Death of a Salesman has endured for 50 years?  What makes it a classic?

Arthur Miller: That is a difficult question for me to answer because I’m so damned close to the play. I imagine people are attracted to the story as a very compelling one and characters are people they understand and are moved by.  Nowadays, most plays are fragmented… they are not the continuous unveiling of a story like this one, so people get more involved in the story.  Also, Willy lives in our time… in a system of values that tend to de-value the individual… so that at a certain age he can be tossed away. The answer to it all is economic and political… but the situation of the play is something that many people are worried about… So maybe a combination of all these things is what has made the play so popular here and all over the world.

Question: In our world of corporate takeovers and downsizing there are perhaps more Willy Lomans than ever before. How do you feel about the way America has treated its older citizens?

Arthur Miller: I was about to say that, from the mail I get from audiences and people, there’s no lack of Willy Lomans in the world — people who have been expelled from the production system of the country because of age or because their job is shut down around them.  His situation — his job, his boss, his life — is probably more typical than advertised.

Question:  What character in your plays do you most relate to in this stage of your life?

Arthur Miller: You know I’m distributed… a writer distributes himself among the people he’s writing. I’m not sure there’s any one person I identify with more than anyone else. I would like to identify with a John Proctor in The Crucible… I’d think that’s a good person to be… but I don’t know if I’m up to that. That’s a hard question to answer.

Question:  Mr. Miller — how do you relate differently to Willy Loman today than you did when you write the character as a young man?

Arthur Miller: That’s an interesting question.  I’m an old man now, and I tend to side with him more than I used to.  I wrote him when I was 33, and Willy is in his sixties. I think I side with him more now, when he’s fighting with his sons. Objectively I am the same as I was when I was 33, but subjectively I side with him more now — it has changed. Comment: I loved Mr. Miller’s recent interview on NPR (I think with Terry Gross).

Question:  How was this opening on Broadway different from the opening 50 years ago?

Arthur Miller: To my great surprise, it resembled very much the opening 50 years ago… more than it resembled the openings of recent time.  I think part of it was people wanted to see something they knew they were going to like. People got dressed, there was a party atmosphere.  Usually openings are depressing — people are apprehensive about what the critics are going to say. At this opening there was joyfulness — not at the story but as to the fact of the play. It was quite remarkable.

Question:  What are you working on right now?

Arthur Miller: I’ve got about half a play written. I hope to get the rest of it done sometime. It’s a big play — a lot of work — and it’ll be about a year before I get to see it done. That’s what I’m working on right now.

Question:  What do you see as the biggest differences between the performance strategy of Brian Dennehy and other memorable ‘salesmen’?

Arthur Miller: Well let’s see… has got a terrific drive in his performance… it’s a powerhouse. In it he expresses the surge for some kind of victory over his circumstances in a very powerful way.  Some of the others were more strategic — less powerful. Brian is really “throwing himself on his sword” physically. Willy is really trying to survive – – that’s one of the most interesting things about the play — searching for spiritual validity through the love of his sons. Brian does that with great force, physically.

Question: I consider Salesman, Streetcar and Long Day’s Journey all as pleas for sensitivity to society’s castoffs. Do you feel that art can sensitize society to this problem more effectively than news reports and such?

Arthur Miller: I think art can do anything more effectively than news reports.  The mythology we live under is not really derived from the newspaper — it comes from the Bible, from literature, from the mythology from the country from George Washington to Harry Truman. The building blocks of what we believe come from art. The news reports and such skip out of our mind too quickly… it is the things we get from art… and I speak of the Bible as literature as well as a holy book… that stick with us.

Question: Your play, The Crucible, is about McCarthyism.  Would you say we live in age of sexual McCarthyism?

Arthur Miller: Some days it has that aspect, doesn’t it?  It seems that people get totally irrational about sexual matters… is one of the definitions of McCarthyism — a total blindness and deafness to anything but one’s own opinion… and there are days I feel we’re getting close to it in the sexual field.

Question: In regard to Salesman, where was Biff during World War II?

Arthur Miller: He would have been in one of the services just as his brother would be.

Question: Did you have any input with the production when it moved to New York?

Arthur Miller: Well, I did make one change in the cast for New York… it is substantially what it was in Chicago.  I gave notes for 3 or 4 days of rehearsal and they were quickly absorbed by the cast… but the fundamental production is what it was in Chicago.

Question: I’m an aspiring writer (novelist more so, but playwriting is a passion of mine as well). Are there any guidelines or tips you can offer on touching up dialogue or writing in general?

Arthur Miller: You know, I could talk for weeks and end up simply telling you that the way to write is to write, and to read, and to observe.  There is no easy solution to the problems you face as a writer, except to believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and follow it where it leads. I don’t know what else to say.

Question: Who is Willy Loman patterned after?

Arthur Miller: I think I answered that at the outset… I knew a lot of salesmen in my life… he’s sort of pieces of several people — one of whom is an uncle of mine… but eventually you create something that has no root in anything… a creation that comes from your mind. He did in this case.

Question: Mr. Miller… I am aware that your play, The Crucible, was produced during the 50’s in correspondence to the McCarthy trials. What and how are the characters related to this era? and if so, what inspired you to make a story based on this?

Arthur Miller: What inspired the play was the fact that you could not speak with anyone in a rational way about the anti-communist movement in this country, or pursue liberal ideas over the fear of Russia and invasion.  The only other time I knew of when such a fanaticism was on the loose was in Salem. It became a kind of model for that sort of outbreak, and it’s played all over the world because that sort of thing has happened all over the world.  I was trying to show people that that HAD happened before, and that they had to be careful or it would overwhelm society and destroy it.

Question: Mr. Miller — Tell me about your creating process…Do you have an epiphany or does an idea stew and you mull it over before you put pen to paper?

Arthur Miller: Both. I keep mulling until an epiphany happens… if it doesn’t, I go on to something else.  It is a process of making a deep connection with something, and if it doesn’t happen there is no way I know of to make it happen… consequently there is long gaps in the creative process while you wait for this to take place.

Question: Do you think the theater is still capable of supporting and nurturing promising new playwrights?

Arthur Miller: There seem to be more new playwrights than there ever were.  The problem is the organization of the theaters, the playwrights and the audiences. There are plenty of playwrights… what we need is a viable social organization to make the audience and the artistic side mutually supportive. We have not been able to organize the audience so that it can come to the theater… the prices have scared a lot of people away.  I think we have a lot of playwrights waiting to get on, but we don’t have the organization that makes that possible.

Transcript of AOL chat with Brian Dennehy


Death of a Salesman Broadway Brian Dennehy Arthur MillerThe chat took place on February 21, 1999, live from Brian Dennehy’s dressing room at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre

AOL: For those that joined us this afternoon for our live chat with Arthur Miller, welcome back.  Now we’d like to welcome Brian Dennehy. Mr. Dennehy is joining us this evening from his dressing room at the theatre.

Question: In a recent interview, you said that Willy Loman is one of the most challenging roles of your career. Could you explain why?

Brian Dennehy: Well, first of all it’s a very long role. It’s physically longer than Hamlet.  In two days of his life he’s living through the manic depression of his life. Making those transitions believable is very demanding. It’s tricky.  At my age, the most you can hope for is interesting parts, and this is the most interesting part there is.

Question: You’ve said that you’ve always wanted to play Willy Loman. What roles, do you think prepared you for this production?

Brian Dennehy: What prepares you to play Willy Loman is living a life. I am sixty years old, I’ve had some success, and a lot of failure. I’ve had some acceptance and some rejection. I can’t imagine playing Willy if I were 40 or 50. I think the sum total of the good and bad parts or my life have helped me invest in this role.  It’s not so much the roles I have played as the life I have lead that has helped me in this role.

Question: What new perspective have you tried to bring to this role, after Dustin Hoffman and Lee Cobb?

Brian Dennehy: Well, I think I answered that. It is very like Hamlet.  Willy has been described as the American Lear, and what you can bring to that is your experiences, your life, your sin, your success. Hoffman, Cobb, Scott have all brought different things to the role. They are all different, and they should be different. What I have brought is myself. The highs and the lows, the success and failure. It gives an actor an opportunity to bring all of themselves into the role. Question: I feel the pairing of Mr. Miller’s Loman with Mr. Dennehy is very exciting

Question: What kind of recognition do you see in people’s faces at the curtain call? How does it affect you as an actor?

Brian Dennehy: It depends. The people who seem to be most affected by the play are the men — men in their 40’s 50’s and 60’s. In many cases these are men who have learned to protect themselves. When this breaks through, they are not able to hide. As with any great work of art, it says to the members of the audience: “what resonance does this have in your life?” They are devastated and tremendously moved by it when it breaks through to their lives. All great art reflects something about your own experiences very powerfully, and certainly that is true of this play.

Question: The NY Times reviewer singled out a particular gesture you made during the performance he saw. Does that make you self-conscious? Does that make you want to drop the gesture? Or do you just not read the reviews?

Brian Dennehy: I try to avoid reading anything about the production until long after it has closed. I have found over the years it is best not to read review when they are good and when they are bad. It is better to leave them alone.  Ben Brantley of the Times has been of influence with this play. His first piece in Chicago was more of a “think piece” that was largely responsible for bringing the production to NYC. So I have very fond feeling about that review, but in general I find it is best to avoid reviews until long after the production is closed.

Question: What did you do before becoming an actor?

Brian Dennehy: I did many, many things. I was a bartender, a cab driver, a waiter. I worked on Wall Street, and I did all of them badly.

Question: Which work of yours are you most proud of? Why?

Brian Dennehy: The usual answer for a question like that is: “Whatever I am doing now”. In this case I would have to say that is most accurate now. This has been the most wonderful experience of my life. At first I was unsure of what to expect. I have found at the center of this a wonderful piece of art, doing this character has restored in my something that really needed to be restored.  I will always be grateful for this experience. Not because it has been a success, but because it has given me back something I had lost along the way.

Question: You have been in many media, which one is the most rewarding and which one is the most demanding?

Brian Dennehy: It depends on what you mean by rewarding. The theater is the most exciting.  Movies can be rewarding, as with TV but there are many people making decisions, adding layers and techniques that separate you from the audience.  In the theater all that separates is space.  It is what an actor does.  It is the oldest profession, storytelling and acting. It is so profound, and by far it is the most rewarding.

Death of a Salesman AwardsDeath of a Salesman Awards:

  • TONY AWARD WINNER for Best Revival of a Play to Death of a Salesman;
  • TONY AWARD WINNER for Best Direction of a Play to Robert Falls;
  • TONY AWARD WINNER for Best Actor in a Play to Brian Dennehy;
  • TONY AWARD NOMINATION for Best Featured Actor in a Play to Howard Witt;
  • TONY AWARD NOMINATION for Best Featured Actor in a Play to Kevin Anderson;
  • TONY AWARD WINNER for Best Featured Actress in a Play to Elizabeth Franz;
  • DRAMA DESK AWARD WINNER for Outstanding Revival of a Play to Death of a Salesman;
  • DRAMA DESK AWARD WINNER for Outstanding Actor in a Play to Brian Dennehy;
  • DRAMA DESK AWARD NOMINATION for Outstanding Actress in a Play to Elizabeth Franz;
  • DRAMA DESK AWARD NOMINATION for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play to Howard Witt;
  • DRAMA DESK AWARD WINNER for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play to Kevin Anderson;
  • DRAMA DESK AWARD NOMINATION for Outstanding Director of a Play to Robert Falls;
  • DRAMA DESK AWARD NOMINATION for Outstanding Music In a Play to Richard Woodbury;
  • DRAMA LEAGUE AWARD WINNER for Distinguished Production of a Revival to Death of a Salesman;
  • OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD NOMINATION for Outstanding Revival of a Play to Death of a Salesman;
  • OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD NOMINATION for Outstanding Actor in a Play to Brian Dennehy;
  • OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD NOMINATION for Outstanding Actress in a Play to Elizabeth Franz;
  • OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play to Kevin Anderson;
  • OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD NOMINATION for Outstanding Director of a Play to Robert Falls.

Death of a Salesman Characters:

  • Willy Loman: The central character in the play. He has been employed for 36 years by the Wagner firm as a traveling salesman. Now, at the age of 63, he has been removed from salary and placed on straight commission, a sign that he is no longer as valuable to the company as he once was.
  • Linda Loman: Willy’s wife. She is devoted to the welfare of her husband and has made many sacrifices in order to sustain him. She tries to support and encourage Willy. Despite her efforts, he grows increasingly depressed.
  • Biff Loman: Willy’s 34 year-old son, the elder of the two children. As a high school student, he was a star football player and showed great promise; however, he has spent the past 14 years doing various odd jobs around the company attempting to find meaning in life.
  • Happy Loman: Willy’s 32 year-old son, the younger of the two brothers. Happy lives in his own apartment and works for a department store. He feels rejected by his father, who always preferred Biff.
  • Charley: A next-door neighbor and lifetime friend of the Lomans. When Willy is put on commission, Charley lends him money each month. He is more down-to-earth than Willy and more successful.
  • Bernard: Charley’s son. As a child, he was Biff’s friend and has gone on to become a successful attorney.
  • Jenny: Charley’s secretary.
  • Ben: Willy’s dead brother. As a young man he left home and became very wealthy. He is the man Willy was never able to be. He appears in Willy’s daydreams as the only man Willy ever met “who knew the answers.”
  • Howard Wagner: Willy’s boss at the Wagner company and the son of the original owner.
  • Miss Francis: A woman from Willy’s past.
  • Letta & Miss Forsythe: Two young women Happy picks up.
  • Stanley: A young waiter at Frank’s Chop House.

Death of a Salesman Synopsis: 

Salesman Willy Loman finds his career crumbling and his relationships with his wife and sons severely tested in Arthur Miller’s dream-like meditation on the cost of the American dream.

Willy Loman returns home exhausted after a business trip he has cancelled. Worried over Willy’s state of mind and recent car accident, his wife Linda suggests that he ask his boss Howard Wagner to allow him to work in his home city so he will not have to travel. Willy complains to Linda that their son, Biff, has yet to make good on his life. Despite Biff’s promise as a football star in high school, he failed in mathematics and was unable to enter a university.

Biff and his younger brother, Happy, who is temporarily staying with Willy and Linda after Biff’s unexpected return from the West, reminisce about their childhood together. They discuss their father’s mental degeneration, which they have witnessed in the form of his constant indecisiveness and daydreaming about the boys’ high school years. Willy walks in, angry that the two boys have never amounted to anything. In an effort to pacify their father, Biff and Happy tell their father that Biff plans to make a business proposition the next day.

The next day, Willy goes to ask his boss, Howard, for a job in town while Biff goes to make a business proposition, but both fail. Willy gets angry and ends up getting fired when the boss tells him he needs a rest and can no longer represent the company. Biff waits hours to see a former employer who does not remember him and turns him down. Biff impulsively steals a fountain pen. Willy then goes to the office of his neighbor Charley, where he runs into Charley’s son Bernard, now a successful lawyer. Bernard tells him that Biff originally wanted to go to summer school to make up for failing math, but something happened in Boston when Biff went to visit his father that changed his mind. Charley gives the now-unemployed Willy money to pay his life-insurance premium. Willy shocks Charley by remarking that ultimately, a man is “worth more dead than alive.”

Happy, Biff, and Willy meet for dinner at a restaurant, but Willy refuses to hear bad news from Biff. Happy tries to get Biff to lie to their father. Biff tries to tell him what happened as Willy gets angry and slips into a flashback of what happened in Boston the day Biff came to see him. Willy had been having an affair with a receptionist on one of his sales trips when Biff unexpectedly arrived at Willy’s hotel room. A shocked Biff angrily confronted his father, calling him a liar and a fraud. From that moment, Biff’s views of his father changed and set him adrift.

Biff leaves the restaurant in frustration, followed by Happy and two girls that Happy picked up. They leave a confused and upset Willy behind in the restaurant. When they later return home, their mother angrily confronts them for abandoning their father while Willy remains outside, talking to himself. Biff tries unsuccessfully to reconcile with Willy, but the discussion quickly escalates into another argument. Biff conveys plainly to his father that he is not meant for anything great, insisting that both of them are simply ordinary men meant to lead ordinary lives. The feud reaches an apparent climax with Biff hugging Willy and crying as he tries to get Willy to let go of the unrealistic expectations. Rather than listen to what Biff actually says, Willy appears to believe his son has forgiven him and will follow in his footsteps, and after Linda goes upstairs to bed (despite her urging him to follow her), lapses one final time into a hallucination, thinking he sees his long-dead brother Ben, whom Willy idolized.

In Willy’s mind, Ben approves of the scheme Willy has dreamed up to kill himself in order to give Biff his insurance policy money. Willy exits the house. Biff and Linda cry out in despair as the sound of Willy’s car blares up and fades out.

The final scene takes place at Willy’s funeral, which is attended only by his family, Charley and Bernard (Bernard says nothing at the funeral, but in the stage directions, he is present). The ambiguities of mixed and unaddressed emotions persist, particularly over whether Willy’s choices or circumstances were obsolete. At the funeral Biff retains his belief that he does not want to become a businessman like his father. Happy, on the other hand, chooses to follow in his father’s footsteps, while Linda laments her husband’s decision just before her final payment on the house.

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Arthur Miller’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN originally opened on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre on February 11, 1949 and ran until November 18, 1950 – with a total of 742 performances. The original cast was:

Lee J. Cobb Willy Loman
Thomas Chalmers Uncle Ben
Mildred Dunnock Linda
Alan Hewitt Howard Wagner
Arthur Kennedy Biff
Cameron Mitchell Happy
Howard Smith Charley
Hope Cameron Letta
Winifred Cushing The Woman
Ann Driscoll Secretary
Constance Ford Miss Forsythe
Don Keefer Bernard
Tom Pedi Stanley
Robert Simon
Understudy: Willy Loman

Produced by Kermit Bloomgarden and Walter Fried. Directed & Staged by Elia Kazan. Incidental music by Alex North; Scenic & Lighting Design by Jo Mielziner; Costume Design by Julia Sze; Assistant to Mr. Mielziner: John Harvey; General Manager: Max Allentuck; Production Stage Manager: Del Hughes; Stage Manager: Leonard Patrick; Assistant Stage Manager: James Gregory; Music Contractor: Joseph Haber; Trumpet: William Brooks; Clarinet: Louis Klein; Cello: Abe Kessler; Flute: Victor Harris; Press Representative: James D. Proctor; Assistant Press Representative: Anne Sloper; Assistant to the Director: Robert Simon; Production Assistant: Ethel Winant

Award Tony 1949 Tony Award Best Play
Award Tony 1949 Tony Award Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic)
Arthur Kennedy
Award Tony 1949 Tony Award Best Scenic Design
Jo Mielziner
Award Tony 1949 Tony Award Producer (Dramatic)
Kermit Bloomgarden and Walter Fried
Award Tony 1949 Tony Award Author
Arthur Miller
Award Tony 1949 Tony Award Best Director
Elia Kazan
Award Pulitzer 1949 Pulitzer Prize Drama
Award Theatre World 1949 Theatre World Award Cameron Mitchell

Reviews noted the set and lighting of the production. “Jo Mielziner, always equal to an occasion, has designed a skeletonized set that captures the mood of the play and serves the actors brilliantly,” wrote Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times. “The notable set – a two story exposed house – along with the mood lighting create the stage and world of Death of A Salesman. Focusing on the somber, yet intense, set, it allows the audience to be drawn into the mood of the play from the instant they see the staging“.

It is considered by some critics to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.

Death of a Salesman OBC photo 03 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 12 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 10 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 04 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 11 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 06 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 02 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 07 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 09 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 01 Death of a Salesman OBC photo 08 Death of a Salesman OBC promo Lee J Cobb Death of a Salesman OBC design renderingDeath of a Salesman OBC design setDeath of a Salesman OBC press New York Times review Death of a Salesman OBC playbill cover Death of a Salesman OBC book cover

Death of a Salesman OBC DVD coverA 1966 made-for-television film adaptation of DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller was presented on CBS sponsored by Xerox, and later preserved on VHS and DVD by my Broadway Theatre Archive directed by Alex Segal and adapted for television by Arthur Miller. Produced by Daniel Melnick and David Susskind with Marvin J. Chomsky as associate producer. Lee J. Cobb (Willy Loman) and Mildred Dunnock (Linda Loman) reprised their role  from the original 1949 stage production.

WITH James Farentino (Happy ‘Hap’ Loman), George Segal (Biff Loman), Gene Wilder (Bernard), Albert Dekker (Uncle Ben), Edward Andrews (Charley), Marge Redmond (Woman in Hotel), Bernie Kopell (Howard Wagner), Stanley Adams (Stanley), Joan Patrick (Miss Forsythe), Karen Steele (Letta), and June Foray (Jenny)

It received numerous nominations for awards, and won several of them, including 3 Primetime Emmy Awards, a Directors Guild of America Award and a Peabody Award. It was nominated in a total of 11 Emmy categories at the 19th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1967. In addition, Cobb and Dunnock were Grammy Award-nominated at the 9th Grammy Awards in 1967 in the category of Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording.

In the shed where it happened …

DEATH OF A SALESMAN 2005 London photo Athur Miller outside the shed where he wrote DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Arthur Miller, outside his writing shed, which he built ~1948 for the purpose of
writing Death of a Salesman at his Roxbury, Connecticut residence.

Photograph © Inge Morath, Magnum Photos, Inc. Used with permission

We later revived the Broadway production in London’s West End.

our 1999 production was preserved on film

See it's listing on the IMDB

For fun, here is my parody of DEATH OF A SALESMAN from early 2020

Parody...-Divorce-of-a-Salesman-(Re-imagined-Poster)

See about 100 more of my Broadway parodies

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