This is not a very pleasant play; in it I try to show how we can be better by thinking about the characters and their actions in more depth. I wrote this play with conscience and compassion, remember the playwright is nothing without his audience.
The characters that I created provide the drama through their natural dialogue and the revelations that emerge from this. I will start by describing Joe Keller. Joe is the central character in the play. Joe’s character is shown more through his relations with others. We must remember that Joe is not a very bad man his intentions are good. He does love his family but fails to see the universal human family, which has a higher claim on his duty, being the owner of a factory responsible for the death of twenty-one men. Being uneducated he relies on his humorous nature to get him through everyday conversation. He may think he has got away with crime, but is troubled by the thought of it and relies on Kate Keller, his wife, not to betray his guilt. He strongly portrays the image of a typical American family man following the American Dream.
Next is Chris Keller. Chris has been changed by his experience of the war. He saw men laying down their lives for friends; this contradicts his father’s belief of the American Dream. He is bitter against the fact that the world hasn’t changed after the war and that the selflessness of his fellow soldiers counts for nothing. His bitterness towards this is important to send a strong message to the audience.
‘What kind of a man are you? Kids were hanging in the air by those heads.’
As Chris confronts his father about him being selfish he finds it hard to control his temper. He is passionate about his beliefs and this should make the audience think about their responsibilities to society. He is the heir to his father’s factory but feels guilty about making money out of a business, which doesn’t value the men on whose labour it relies.
Kate Keller is the wife of Joe Keller and the mother of Chris and Larry, who is believed to be dead. She is a woman of enormous maternal love, which extends to her neighbour’s children, notably George. Despite her instinctive warmth she is still capable of supporting Joe in his deceit. To believe that Larry is dead would be to believe that his death was a punishment of Joe’s crime.
‘Your brother is alive, darling, because if he’s dead, your father killed him’
She must persuade herself that Larry still lives. Joe sees this idea to be ridiculous, but he decides to tolerate it to secure Kate’s support for his own deception.
Ann Deever is a pleasant, high-spirited girl, She was previously engaged to Larry but is now deeply in love with his brother, Chris. Ann shares Chris’ high ideals but still believes he should not be ashamed by his wealth. She decides to disown her father whom she believes to be guilty of the crime that Joe Keller committed. She has no wish to hurt Kate but will show her Larry’s letter if she remains opposed to her marrying Chris.
Jim Bayliss is a young successful doctor; he is also the Keller’s neighbour. He shares Chris’ ideals but has been forced to compromise to pay the bills. He is fair to his wife, but she knows how frustrated Jim feels. Jim’s is the voice of disillusioned experience. If any character speaks as myself, it is Jim.
Now we have George Deever, he is a soul mate of Chris’. George greatly admired Chris when they were younger. Like Chris, George was praised for his bravery in the war. The way he follows Chris is accepting that Steve is guilty, but now he approaches Chris for deceiving him. George is strong, serious and on the borderline of depression, this should be shown in his appearance. He is bitter because he has grown cynical about the ideals for which he sacrificed his own opportunities for happiness.
I hope this will help you to stage the characters in a way that the audience will enjoy.
The most important scenes in this play are in the beginning of act 1 where symbolism is used when the tree that was planted to remember Larry was knocked over by the wind. It symbolises his death and being on his birthday, with Ann Deever, his ex-girlfriend, in town, seems more than coincidental. Another scene of some significance would have to be when the grape juice is served. It beings back memories of their happy childhood in the old days. The atmosphere should be awkward with the absence of Larry. It shows how much things have changed and how they have lost friends and neighbours. This should create an uneasy atmosphere and the awkward feelings of the characters should be evident.
The scene that I feel is of most importance is the end of act 2. This is when Joe Keller confesses that it was him who committed that crime that was blamed on George Deever. This comes as a shock to both Chris and the audience, so I want there to be a huge impact. The amount of tension in this scene should be evident.
‘Your brother’s alive, darling, because if he’s dead, your father killed him’
The expression on Chris’ face should change from sadness to both shock and anger. Chris should feel anger and disappointment; his father who he thought very highly of has deceived him.
‘What the hell do you mean, you did it for me? Don’t you have a country?’
This is when Chris’ idea of socialism is taken more seriously. His own father brought him up the way he now realises is wrong and is ashamed because of it.
I will identify specific lines that I would like the characters to emphasise to the audience in a particular way. The first line, which I feel in important, is where Joe Keller says:
‘What the hell did I work for? That’s only for you, Chris, the whole shootin’ match is for you!’
This line shows that Keller only puts family first and wants Chris to carry on in his footsteps. Chris feels guilty but still silently questions why his father is only interested in the business and the family when he has a duty to society. By now Keller is angry that Chris doesn’t appreciate his offer.
The second most important line, I feel, is spoken by Ann:
‘It’s wrong to pity a man like that. Father or no father, there’s only one way to look at him.’
Here Ann shows hatred and disappointment towards her father, these are unfair emotions as he is accused falsely for the crime. The audience should feel pity for Steve by the end of the play. This emotion should be made very evident when they realise how unfairly he was treated. More people feel hate and pity for Keller at the end of the play.
The third line of importance is spoken by Dr. Jim Bayliss:
‘Every man does have a star. The star of one’s honesty.’
Jim should say this with passion and strong belief. It gives Kate the support from going insane but still helps her and the audience realise that so many people have done things that are wrong.
Towards the end Chris shows his immense disappointment in his father:
‘I saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.’
Chris is extremely angry here.
As Joe Keller, finally realises that he was morally wrong in his idea of capitalism, he realises that everything he worked for was purely selfish.
‘Sure he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were.’
I intend to outline my requirements for the use of music, lighting and props. Props should be as real as possible. The colours should be more towards the darker colours to show the depressing atmosphere more vividly. Lighting should only be on the people in conversation, when the tension rises the characters faces should be more strained and the light should be brighter as if some one is being interrogated. Fast music with strong instruments should be played in the background every time an argument arises. Percussions should be sounded when the audience should receive a strong impact.
Overall, I would like this play to be performed in such a way that the audience will leave your theatre questioning the behaviour of Joe Keller and whether what he did was morally correct. They should also think about their own actions and question whether they are prepared to let someone else live a live like Steve Deever just to save themselves. And how to be better and more considerate to the people around them. People should realise that their family is important but so is your duty to society.
A diagram of the stage and backdrop is enclosed to give you a clearer guideline to what the Keller’s back yard should look like.
I wish you all the best with the production and hope this has helped you enough to make it enjoyable for yourself and the audience.
Mr Arthur Miller