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The Weston Playhouse Theatre Company
The 2010 WPTC Teacher’s Workshop and the School Matinee and Touring Production is made possible in part by grants from: The Bay and Paul Foundations Mountain Room Foundation National Endowment for the Arts The Shubert Foundation The Vermont Country Store and The Orton Family Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities With additional contributions from: Black River Produce Berkshire Bank Clark’s Quality Foods Price Chopper’s Golub Foundation Ezra Jack Keats Foundation Okemo Mountain Resort Thrifty Attic …and an ever growing family of individuals who believe in the impact that the performing arts can have on its community.
This Teachers Study Guide was compiled and edited by Rena Murman. Credit and thanks to the following theatres for materials used or referenced from study guides created for Death of a Salesman: Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, MN; Kennedy Center, Washington, DC; Lyric Theatre, London; Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, Edinburgh; Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, CT.
© 2010 Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational and cultural institution. WPTC Performance Guides may be duplicated at no charge for educational purposes only. They may not be sold or used in other publications without the express written consent of the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company.
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Study Guide for Teachers TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction Interview with Director Steve Stettler The Playwright Arthur Miller in his own words Inspiration for Death of a Salesman Writing Death of a Salesman The Characters Synopsis The Setting Themes Motifs Style, Structure, Form Literary Connections CURRICULUM MATERIALS Before the Play Questions for the Play Reader: An Act by Act Guide Questions for After Attending a Performance Delving Deeper Writing Topics Activities for Further Exploration Quotes from Death of a Salesman Bibliography 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 14 15 17 18 19 21 22 22 23 24 25 25 26 27 28
DEATH OF A SALESMAN Study Guide for Teachers
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller was first performed in 1949 on Broadway and was an immediate success. This deceptively simple story of the tragic road to suicide of a traveling salesman struck an emotional chord with American audiences. It was critically acclaimed and won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the production ran for 742 performances before it closed. Since then Death of a Salesman has become one of the most performed and adapted plays in American theatrical history. While Miller tackles the social question of the effect the capitalistic American Dream myth has on an ordinary family, its enduring appeal seems to lie in the fact that Miller tapped into the hopes and fears of not only an American but a global public. Universal human questions about the nature of happiness and success, of aging and of family responsibility are tackled. Willy Loman has the quality of an everyman, whose struggle to attain his dreams of success resonates within us all. But it is not just the themes of the play that ensured its success. Miller was so innovative with form and skilled with language that he created a style that was accessible to any audience yet produced a multi-layered piece of theatre. These qualities have confirmed the play’s place in the canon of 'classic literature’ and ensured that since its premiere, there has never been a time when Death of a Salesman was not being performed somewhere in the world.
AROUND THE WORLD The appeal of Death of a Salesman is not solely an American phenomenon; the play has found its way onto stages across the world including productions in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan,...