'Salesman' Speaks to the American Experience
In the pantheon of Great American Playwrights, there is never any question that Arthur Miller holds a vital place. His contributions to theatre include All My Sons, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, and his best-known work, Death of a Salesman.
Miller wrote the entire first act of Salesman in less than a day. He was finished with the whole thing in six weeks. Death of a Salesman opened on Broadway in 1949 under the direction of Elia Kazan. It won Miller a Pulitzer Prize, all six Tony awards for which it was nominated, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. It was the high point of Miller's career; while The Crucible was a critical and commercial success, it did not match its predecessor for awards. About his work, Miller said “The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.” He died February 10, 2005, on the 56th anniversary of the Broadway premiere of Death of a Salesman. He was 89.
Plays that last are those that continue to resonate with the culture because they root eternal struggles in the smaller, more specific everyday-ness of life. Death of a Salesman speaks particularly to the American experience, even now, 67 years after its debut. You can see it onstage at Wichita Community Theatre, from January 27 through February 7.