Artistic Director Marc Masterson says that you zeroed in on Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman as a role you wanted to take on. Why this role and play?
Marc and I have been friends and colleagues since Houston's Studio 7, more 45 years ago. I had never done an Arthur Miller play before, so I was eager to tackle this exceptional, renowned American legend's dialogue. Who could resist rehearsing and performing a play written by this country's most quintessential playwright?
How do you approach the character of Willy?
Willy Loman, is one of the most well-written, tragic figures of our time, and for that matter, probably of all time. Death of a Salesman is considered a "perfect" play, if anything can be labeled as such. Many a playwright has tried capturing this enigma, called Willy, but they have been only tributes to Arthur Miller's writing. I consider it an honor to have the opportunity to play this tragic figure. It is an adventure in true character study. The idea of an ever-changing reality for this man—who doesn't like his reflection in the mirror, nor in others, so much so, that death would be convenient—speaks volumes to the layers within his soul, when life becomes too much to bear.
Why does this play endure? Why is it so universal?
Death of a Salesman resonates globally, regardless of ethnicity, because it speaks to the question of success: the ability to achieve it, maintain it, lose it and be deceived by it. We see the struggle of a man to judge his worth by the coins in his pocket, and a further struggle with himself as age and death creep up on his doorstep. Also, the pressure for a man to leave his mark on the world, is universal, and if not by success, then how? That question transcends time.
If you could have lunch with Arthur Miller and talk about Death of a Salesman, what would that conversation entail?
If I had been fortunate to have known the great Arthur Miller, I would ask: “At what moment in your life … did ink masterfully find paper, and Willy and his world suddenly appear?”
What do you want audience members to come away with after having seen this production?
I hope audiences will enjoy our production and that it also will move them to hold life a little dearer. I hope that they can release themselves from the pitfalls of expecting their loved ones, especially their children, to follow in their footsteps, as well as teach them not to live vicariously through their children's lives. I would say: ‘Learn a lesson from the tragedies of all Willy Lomans; be true to yourself, accept defeat graciously and courageously, and embrace any and all success humbly. ‘
For our MyStage audience members (ages 15-25), what would you say about how to get the most out of this play?
In preparing a young audience for this production of Death of a Salesman, or any production, I would ask that they look beyond the time and space with which the dialogue manifests itself upon a stage; instead, hear the words in the context of their own lives. We all know people like the Lomans. It is never too late to pick yourself up, and brush yourself off, because the alternative is fatal. Listen mindfully, and act accordingly.