Death of a Salesman Primer

by Jessica Austin, Marketing Assistant. 

Chances are, if you went to high school in America, you’ve read the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Arthur Miller entitled Death of a Salesman. If you never had the pleasure of reading it, here’s a quick synopsis: Death of a Salesman is a critique of the American Dream as seen through an average family in New York who can’t reconcile their aspirations with reality. Willy Loman, father and failing salesman, attempts to mask his failures and utter averageness with illusions of success as he strives to do right by his family and reach dreams that are dually vast and insubstantial. The play is considered a milestone in American theater and was first performed in 1949, successful due to its appeal to both humor and tragedy, and the relatable theme of an unattainable dream in capitalism-fueled America.  

While it was written and first performed more than 60 years ago, these themes still ring with a certain amount of truth to them today and make the play an ultimate classic in American theater. Surprisingly, this play started off as a short story that Arthur Miller left unfinished until he became re-inspired and turned it into a play some years later. Miller wrote many plays during his life, most famously Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, and The Crucible. The majority of his plays cast a critical eye on America because he was so enamored with its promise. He wanted to write plays that people could relate not only to the world around them, but also to a piece of themselves as a means of understanding the often complicated feeling of living in a country that doesn’t always favor you. He strove to make the world a better, more understandable place, even if it meant, as he once said, “grabbing people and shaking them by the back of the neck.”

Our upcoming production of this classic American play is directed by our own Spiro Veloudos and opens February 14th.