Tony Dallas is directing Death of a Salesman,
which is now playing at the Human Race Theater in Dayton.
residents collaborate with Daytons Human Race Theater
Americas place in world
Local director and playwright Tony Dallas wants his plays to make people
feel uncomfortable. Productions of Arthur Millers American classic
Death of a Salesman have never had trouble accomplishing that end on the
individual level. But collective discomfort is something Dallas is trying
to address in his latest work.
Dallas never wanted to tackle the play about a traveling salesman who
feels hes failed in his role as the ideal American male.
If I see a good production of a play I have no desire to do the
play, he said.
Dallas grew up watching his father, Meredith Dallas, play the part of
Willy Loman with vibrant and vibrating energy.
I was 10 when I saw it, but its still very clear in my head,
Tony said. All of my mentoring came from watching him, and half
my experience in directing was to try to rip that voice from my head.
Now Dallas is directing Death of a Salesman through Sunday, Feb. 16, at
the Human Race Theater in Dayton.
In the fall of 2001 Dallas traveled to Chile on an artist exchange program
through the Ohio Arts Council and Chiles Ministry of Education.
While in Chile he heard many stories of the relatively safe outlet the
theater provided for political dissidents during the dictatorship of American-backed
Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s and 80s. Dallas attended one production
depicting the events of that period, after which the crowd began to cheer
when someone on stage referred to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Dallas was struck both by the intense politicization of Chilean theater
and by the negative way America and American capitalism was depicted.
I became aware of what globalization means and the selling of American
goods abroad, Dallas said.
It also made him think about how unpolitical theater in America is. Dallas
said that he was bored with the same old Broadway hits playing in regional
theaters throughout the country. The theater should challenge, raise questions,
foment public introspection, he said. But, he said, funding for the National
Endowment for the Arts is so small that theaters have to rely on catering
to their audiences and corporate subsidies to survive.
Dallas said that he was disappointed when he saw a recent production of
Death of a Salesman that made the play seem old, a play about domestic
problems and how a son sees his father.
The theater tends to get so small in its realism, he said.
I used to think that within our culture the original play was Cain
and Abel, how are we to each other, Dallas said. But now Im
starting to think its Abraham and Isaac, where the play is to be
the sacrificial lamb.
In his current production of Death of a Salesman, Dallas, who is 51, said
that he hopes to emphasize, throu gh the story of an American family,
a sense of what he calls the countrys self-centered arrogance and
isolationist attitude. One idea he had was to bring all the players on
stage to act as their own reflexive audience. It was an idea his father
used when he directed an early production of The Crucible at the time
of the McCarthy hearings.
Meredith wrote to Arthur Miller about his idea, and Miller wrote back
to him on May 2, 1956: Your ideas seem fine, quite as I would have
the play done.
It feels a little bit like a seal of approval, Tony said,
setting his fathers letter aside.
Local musician Tucki Bailey has composed an original score for the production,
with a flute solo harkening back to the childhood Willy keeps trying to
remember. Local actors Bruce Cromer and Howard Shook will play the parts
of Biff, Willies son, and Bernard, a neighbor, respectively. The
production also includes the recorded voices of local actors Adam Zaremsky
and Liana Rothman.