The Play Produced
ALL MY SONS by Arthllr Miller Richard 1I7oodward discusses his production f or Formby Theatre Club
ALL MY SONS was Arthur Miller's first major success and when premiered in New York was described as "a play of high voltage" with "a remarkable degree of theatrical excitement". Although by today's standards it might veer towards melodrama it can still pack a powerful punch.
PLOT AND CASTING The play owes something to Ibsen in that we see portrayed on the stage the consequences of actions taken several years before. Joe Keller has allowed faulty airplane parts to be fined resulting in the death of
twenty one pilots. He was exonerated from blame in court but his partner was found guilty and sent to jail. When the play opens it is a hot August day and Chris Keller has brought home Ann Deever with the intention of asking her to marry him. His mother is against the idea as Ann was pre,,;ously engaged to Larry, her other son, a pilot who was reported missing ofT the coast of China three years before and whom she believes is alive. Furthennore Ann is the daughter of Joe's partner who still maintains that Joe lied in court and is the guilty party. Maners come to a head when Ann's brother George arrives having visited his father in prison. The tension increases until Joe's guilt is uncovered and the play moves PAGE 14
swiftly to a startling and dramatic climax. There are parts for five men, 4 women and a boy spanning an age
range from 8 to 60 with a good balance of challenging roles for experienced players and some opportunities for those less experienced. The four neighbours are nice cameo roles allowing for some humour and lightness and young Bert has two very short lively scenes. George only appears in Act 2 but it is a superb role encompassing many emotions. The brunt of the play falls on the four main characters of Joe, Kate, Chris and Ann requiring actors of stamina who can sustain intense emotions particularly the two men who have a couple of very demanding duologues. REHEARSALS I planned twenty four rehearsals with the first few spent in reading through followed by discussions
particularly regarding characteris ations and problems that might arise. During the next weeks I spent one evening with the whole cast concentrating on the smaller roles. Although this meant skipping from act to act it ensured that nobody spent long sining around and it allowed for another evening with just the four main actors. The third rehearsal of the week was devoted to Act 2 which involves George and where the real drama of the play erupts. About a fortnight before the opening I had a runthrough with no stopping to allow the cast to gauge the stamina needed and to pace themselves accordingly. Final polishing up followed before a technical and two dress rehearsals. SCENERY There is a single sening of an ordinary American backyard and as
the theatre is intimate I wante be as solid and realistic as po • The back wall of the theatr painted to represent the outsi the house, a window frame curtains and a light behind fined high up and a thick cardlxw.. tube was cleverly disguised drainpipe. A back door and an 0 • mesh door opened out onto verandah with steps down to paved and grassy area. The set brought out in front of proscenium arch where an arb 1:. was erected and a walled garden be::: where "Larry's tree" was planted UGHTING Each act is set at a specific time day so three very different lighting mood s were created . Brig h sunshine for Act I, twilight for Act
2 and shadowy darkness relieved by pools of light for Act 3. The light behind the window was lit, a bright shaft of light through the kitchen
Ama tellr Stage May 1991
The Play Produced
setting I used all Glenn Miller music. Although a dramatic play each act opens quietly so I remained consistent and played the mellow "Moonlight Serenade" for cunain up.
SPECIAL EFFECTS AND PROPS Effects are simple being only a car hom, telephone ring and a gun shot. Props presented no real difficulties. A mixture of well used garden furniture, old gardening tools and everyday household objects are all the requirements.
door illuminated the verandah and some very effective moonlight created a pool of light centre stage. Once set the lights did not alter during the scenes as I felt this would create difliculties for the following act.
COSTUMES The neighbours and Ben require only one costume each; casually dressed they contrasted with
George in a sober grey suit. The four main characters were given a change in Act 2 when they intend going out to dinner. Most costumes came from stock, charity shops or from the ever helpful Ilkley Playhouse loaning the "new look" dress that Annie has spent so much on.
MUSIC To establish the era and American
Act 3 is very shon so an interval was taken after Act I and then the following acts were put together with only a minimal break between. The telephone call in Act 1 seemed unrealistic hearing so much conversation offstage while the actors on stage have to stand around, so I shonened it as much as possible concentrating purely on ponraying unease and tension rather than the dialogue which is not so imponant as all is explained when Annie re-enters.
CONCLUSION ALL MY SONS proved to be a challenging and rewarding play to work on for all departments and with constant publicity emphasis足 ing the strong storyline and gripping nature of the piece it turned out to be good box office too!
Warwick District Council are proud to have played host to the following Amateur Societies
* LEAMINGTON & WARWICK OPERATIC SOCIETY * LEAMINGTON SPA OPERA GROUP * SPA THEATRE WORKSHOP * WARWICKSHIRE ASSOCIATION OF GANG SHOWS Recent Productions include
/ "VARIETY 91" "SWEENEY TODD" "BRGADOON" "FINIAN'S RAINBOW" "L'ELISIR D'AMORE" "ANNIE" "GUYS AND DOLLS" Our 799 seat fully equipped professional theatre is available to amateur groups for hire at competitive rates. The Royal Spa Centre is managed by a small friendly team of dedicated professionals. The venue enjoys a mixed and varied programme of both amateur and professional entertainment.
Peter F. Cresswell F.I.L.A.M. (Dip M.E.) General Manager and Licensee (11 tL Royal Spa Centre, Newbold Terrace, Leamington Spa. Tel. (0296) 334418 ~ "I<lIeUr
SIage May 1991