Tag Archives: All My Sons

All My Sons Is All Too Close

Brian Mackey (L); Tom Stephenson (R)

Brian Mackey (L); Tom Stephenson (R)

For a company whose primary goal is to invigorate the work of Shakespeare, it might seem a curious choice to open the fifth season with a quintessentially American play.

All My Sons still resonates,” says director Christy Yael-Cox, who chose this play partly because of her love of Arthur Miller and partly because the themes of wartime struggle, family loyalty and ethical dilemmas are still important issues in our modern day society.

“This play is just as relevant now as it was in 1947,” says Brian Mackey, who is portraying Chris Keller, the only son from his family to have returned from the war when the play begins. “The issues that it raises of family and sacrifice and idealism, it’s the same thing that we are dealing with right now.”

The crux of the play is this. Everyone is trying to create and maintain lives of stability and happiness and success. How each character goes about achieving these things is where Miller focuses the microscope. The lines between right and wrong, good and bad, and family and foe become blurred very quickly.

Savvy Scopelleti (L); Jacque Wilke (R)

Savvy Scopelleti (L); Jacque Wilke (R)

“It’s a plate spinner,” says Tom Stephenson, who is portraying Joe Keller, whose actions in both the past and the present largely determine the direction of the story. “It’s a time when the American Dream is coming to fruition and it’s a very attractive thing and family is really important. Joe Keller sacrifices virtually everything for his family – but he sacrifices others, not necessarily himself.”

Aside from the ethical issues raised by the story, there is also the question of how to continue the pursuit of these idyllic dreams once the truth is unveiled. Iis it possible to forgive? To forget? Is it denial that moves us towards our next moments in life, or is it hope?

Savvy Scopelleti plays Kate Keller, the mother whose character embodies this question.

“Kate totally believes that her lost son is going to come home,” she says.  “That causes a lot of undercurrents of tension in the family.”

Tom Stephenson (L); Savvy Scopelleti (R)

Tom Stephenson (L); Savvy Scopelleti (R)

To watch these characters navigate these bumpy roads while maintaining the veneer of suburban charm is to witness a very intricate dance. How much truth is too much? How authentic is the American Dream?  How much of our character does it cost to maintain it and is it even worth it to do so?

“This play is a gigantic mirror that was sent here from 1947,” says Brian Rickel, who plays Frank Lubey, an optimistic, bowtie-sporting neighbor in this suburban town. “There’s a lot in this play that is incredibly relevant today and I think Arthur Miller is really important in the way that he wrote because of that.”

“Arthur Miller wrote for a time beyond himself,” says Tom. “And that’s why this play is the incredible thing that it is.”

All My Sons plays through April 19 at the Clayton E. Liggett Theater on the campus of San Dieguito Academy. 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas.
Tickets can be purchased here

All My Sons Page

“All My Sons”: Designing Realism

All My Sons websiteAt an early production meeting for “All My Sons,” Intrepid’s Season Five opener, lighting designer Curtis Mueller studied a picture of the set design.

“Can we put a curtain in that window?” he asked, pointing to the second story of the onstage house façade. “It will help with the mood we’re trying to create.”

If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a designer on a production of an Arthur Miller play, the answer lies somewhere between realistic authenticity and sneaky, subliminal messaging.

“We’re in the subconscious of the audience,” says Curtis, referring to all of the production design elements that go into making a play come to life onstage. “But hopefully, they won’t know it.

The audience, says Curtis, is not supposed to notice something in particular, like his lighting design. Hopefully, he says, it just blends in with all of the other elements to help tell the story.

Costumer Kristin McReddie sketches out 1940s fashion

Costumer Kristin McReddie sketches out 1940s fashion

For the last two months, while actors have been rehearsing lines and blocking, the designers have been busy creating the world the characters will inhabit for the run of the show. Costumer Kristin McReddie has been scouring vintage clothing stores, Etsy.com and costume rental shops all over town. Prop designer Bonnie Durben has been researching the look and design of 1940s household items. Curtis has been paying a lot of attention to the play of the light throughout the course of one day.

“The play is going to be a slice of life post WWII,” says Kristin. “Hopefully, the audience will take away [from the show] what it looked like and felt like to be alive in that era.”

Set in 1947, “All My Sons” explores the dynamic of the Keller family and their neighbors as they navigate a post-war life and all of the hope and loss entailed in that particular time period. It is one of Miller’s most emotionally gripping plays.

But in order for that emotionally-charged story to unfold, it is necessary to ground the setting in a very realistic place. This means careful attention to detail on the part of the designers who are creating this onstage world.

Properties Designer Bonnie Durben focuses on accurate details

Properties Designer Bonnie Durben focuses on accurate details

“This time period is right at a cusp,” explains Bonnie. “There are still people that are old enough that remember the time period, so you have to be very careful about the type of props that you get – that the glass pitcher looks like the glass pitcher their mother had.”

Bonnie’s script is full of notes on these details, the specificity of each item that the characters handle throughout the story. For instance, when a newspaper appears, it is Bonnie’s job to make sure it is exactly the right one.

“The funny papers were different then,” she explains. “They were all in color and they were all brighter and boxed differently. It’s the little things that, really, you don’t notice, but the people in the audience are going to look at it and say, ‘That’s not right. That’s not how I remember it.’”

The search for period-appropriate costumes is just as specific, says Kristin, who had to research, not only the look of that decade’s fashion, but also how wartime permeated even the closets of these characters.

“In the 1940s, everything was tailored to be more fitted towards the body,” she explains. “They had to use less fabric because all of that wool and cotton was going to the war effort. So it’s going to be interesting to see how the actors are going to adapt their blocking to the costumes and the clothing.”

Lighting Designer Curtis Mueller finds inspiration in depictions of daylight.

Lighting Designer Curtis Mueller finds inspiration in depictions of different types of daylight.

Arthur Miller extends this specificity into the story’s lighting design as well, having confined the play’s action to a 24-hour time period. This means that Curtis has spent a lot of time contemplating his role as the show’s timekeeper.

“The lighting design is going to drive the entire show forward because it takes place in one day,” explains Curtis.  “When you think about it, time doesn’t stop, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the pacing of the show corresponds to where we are in time.”

Despite all of this intricately detailed work, at the end of the day, success for the designers means that their contribution does not stand out on its own, but rather gracefully augments the storytelling of the play.

“I think what makes a successful show in general is something that people can always relate to,” says Curtis. “I think this show does a great job of doing that along with providing an emotional story. I hope the audience leaves feeling everything that we put out there for them.”

–Tiffany Tang

All My Sons plays March 27-April 20 at the Clayton E. Liggett Theater on the campus of San Dieguito Academy. 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas.
Tickets can be purchased here

The Life of ‘All My Sons’

All My Sons BWThe theater is quiet as Savvy Scopelleti says the last line of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. And then, for a few moments, no one moves. Finally, scripts are closed, chairs are adjusted, and deep breaths are taken.

It is the first read-through rehearsal for the cast of Intrepid’s Season Five opener, and even though it is also the first time this group of actors has come together, already there is an undeniable feeling of camaraderie here.

Already, it feels like family.

Christy Yael-Cox concludes the read-through with a few parting thoughts – about Miller, about wartime, about freedom from the past. The actors adjourn, minds and hearts full of Miller’s poignant dialogue.

“This play is so important and still so relevant today,” says Christy, “which is both sad and fascinating.”

imgur.com

imgur.com

Written on the heels of World War Two, All My Sons opened on Broadway in 1947 and put Arthur Miller on the map as a legitimate voice in American theatre. Inspired by a story he heard about a young woman from the Midwest who turned in her father for manufacturing and selling defective aircraft parts to the U.S. Army, All My Sons carefully navigates the aftermath of wartime through a handful of small town neighbors discovering that soldiers are not the only ones who bear battle scars.

“We tend to romanticize the past,” says Christy of this particular post-war era. “This play tells a different story, and Miller’s ability to craft the language to tell this story is just stunning.”

Arthur Miller’s personal experiences are also palpable in the telling of this story. Even though he never served in the war (he was rejected from the Army for a medical condition), Miller wrote amply in his memoir, Timebends, of his own disconnectedness to his society while battles were raging overseas.

Arthur Miller by Arnold Newman, NY, 1947

Arthur Miller by Arnold Newman, NY, 1947

“I was walking through the city in wartime feeling the inevitable unease of the survivor,” he writes. “The city I knew was incoherent, yet its throttled speech seemed to implore some significance for the sacrifices that drenched the papers every day.”

Eventually, this disconnect would manifest itself into the creation of a play. He describes himself during that time as “a stretched string waiting to be plucked, waiting, as it turned out, for All My Sons.”

The reception for the Broadway opening of the play was charged. While it received a New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1947, citing its “frank and uncompromising presentation of a timely and important theme” and Miller’s “genuine instinct for the theater,” it was also banned by the Civil Affairs Division of the American Military Government from being presented overseas. Word was that Miller was accused of trying to attack American capitalism, which was a message that could not be exported in this particular era of anti-Communist intensity.

However, Miller’s extraordinary use of language and the honest portrayal of the world he creates in All My Sons has enabled the play to survive through and past the history into which it was born. Christy sees this universalism as a touchstone for Intrepid Shakespeare Company.

“The characters are relatable and realistic because they are so deeply and humanly flawed,” she says. ”In this way, the writing reminds me of Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s themes and the humanity behind his plays are still so resonant for us. This play is the same.”

“Also, it’s funny,” she adds. “There’s a lot of humor. It’s a very human thing, that even in crisis, we can find things to laugh about. Shakespeare understood that. And so did Miller.”

– Tiffany Tang

All My Sons plays March 27-April 20 at the Clayton E. Liggett Theater on the campus of San Dieguito Academy. 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas.
Tickets can be purchased here

All My Sons Page

In Rehearsal with ALL MY SONS

“Everything that happened seems to be coming back.”

Dale Morris and Savvy Scopelleti as Joe and Kate Keller

Kate Keller, who will be portrayed by Savvy Scopelleti in Monday night’s staged reading at the Encinitas Library, observes this in Act One of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. It is a foreshadowing comment whose results will change her family entirely by the conclusion of the play.

It is this sense of unease that permeates this particular Miller tale. Written in 1947 on the heels of the war, the play analyzes the aftermath of war in our society within the context of the family. And just as Kate, the matriarch, understands that the past cannot truly be left behind, as the play unfolds, we see the characters navigating their way through relationships, hope, and ultimately their own battle scars.

“What’s so wonderful about Miller is that he writes about universal truths,” says Amanda Sitton, who will be portraying Ann Deever. “He writes about family and love. Unfortunately, the underlying theme of war isn’t something we get away from as a culture.”

Brian Mackey and Amanda Sitton as Chris Keller and Ann Deever

While the families have been irreversibly affected by this period in American history, the unease in the play stems from their refusal to acknowledge the past or to fully deal with the consequences of their past actions. Therefore, while the story seems innocuous at first, the smooth veneer these characters have built over time slowly begins to crack.

In his essay, “Tragedy and the Common Man,” Miller wrote, “The revolutionary questioning of the stable environment is what terrifies.” The stable ground of patriarch Joe Keller, who will be played on Monday by Dale Morris, has been built on secrecy and denial, and it seems as if it is about to be shaken at any moment, thus releasing a domino effect of fallout.

“Miller is one of those faces on the Mount Rushmore of American theatre, so doing this show in any form has been a long-term goal,” says Dale, although he admits that he may harbor some judgment about the characters in the play. Indeed, none of the characters is truly free from critique, even though everyone seems to earnestly defend his or her own past decisions.

“It’s interesting how everyone in the play justifies their own actions,” says Brian Mackey, who will be portraying Chris Keller, the surviving son in his family who is intent on marrying his brother’s former love interest, Ann. “That’s what’s interesting, those decisions in a human life, those moments when you have to make a decision one way or the other and how that affects the people around you.”

“It’s rife with grey area,” observes Amanda. “There’s no true villain.”

Eddie Yaroch as Jim Bayliss

Even though the play was written over 60 years ago, there are still echoes of today’s conflicts. Eddie Yaroch, who will be playing the next-door neighbor, Dr. Jim Bayliss, observes that decisions in our most recent wartime could have been similarly fraught with difficult or even negligent behavior, which is a major source of tension in All My Sons. “There was probably some similar guilt trips happening in the Defense Department that soldiers are dying because of their lack of initiative or funds,” he says.

Ben Cole, who will be portraying Frank Lubey and whose appearance on the scene often lightens the increasing moments of tension, says that each character in the play also carries their own sense of guilt about the war, which also prevents them from moving forward.

“Everyone has a great deal of denial about what actually happened and a great deal of guilt about maybe even surviving or getting off or escaping blame,” he says. “Frank avoided the war completely by being just too old for the draft.”

Christian Payne as Bert

“Bert avoided the war by being way too young,” chimes in Eddie, referring to Christian Payne, 11, who will be portraying Bert, a neighborhood tattletale. When asked why his character feels the need to constantly announce the misdeeds of his friends, Christian replies with, “Well, he’s young. He’s eight, you know.”

Christian joins the cast for his first Intrepid project alongside what Director Christy Yael-Cox calls “a fantastically talented group of actors.” Also featured are Tom Hall as George Deever, Erin Petersen as Lydia Lubey, and Debra Wanger as Sue Bayliss.

– Tiffany Tang

All My Sons by Arthur Miller, a staged reading, will be held at the Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, October 28. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. Please rsvp to boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets in advance. $15.