A Smashing Success!

Well friends, it’s that time again. Opening Night has come and gone and the first weekend of Death of a Salesman was a smashEmily Andersoning success!

I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed my time working on this production. It has been the most incredible time watching this cast grow from the first read-through to Opening Night and watching their characters emerge and take form. I am so proud of everyone who is involved and I urge you with all sincerity and earnestness to see this incredible show that we have created.

If you haven’t seen it yet, do. If you have friends who haven’t seen it yet and you love them and want them to have the theatrical experience of their lives, bring them along.

Are you worried it’ll be too depressing? Check out our One Word Reviews, and see what word this show made other patrons think of (hint: it’s not ‘depressing’). Are you worried that a show that is so famous that it’ll be laden down with history? Check out Laura’s blog about how seeing something like this can be good for you much like the little trees that dot your kids’ plates. Are you worried that it’ll just be boring people talking about boring life? Check out Evolution of a Set and get a glimpse of all the cool stuff you can look at if you catch yourself ‘zoning out.’ Finally, to you want to get a preview of what it is you have to look forward to? Check out my photo gallery of behind the scenes shots and some of the Opening Night Gala. It’s pretty awesome. I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin.

Come see the show and say hi afterwards!! I would love to meet you all!!

Death of a Salesman Review

Headshot_RoxyOrcutt_135x135"No One’s Worth Nothing Dead”

 By Roxy Orcutt

There is so much to say about Death of a Salesman it is hard to articulate into a short review.  To stick to simple observations and critiques is hard because the material cannot help but create analyzing and discussion.  The themes of the show, the fragility of men, the relationships between fathers and sons, the relationship between men and their wives, the emphasis society puts on outer-appearance and status, the fear of failure and mental illness are all covered in this iconic American play.  Heavy subjects indeed, but Lyric Arts handles this material beautifully and deftly.

The lighting of the show was as much as a character as the actors themselves.  The use of shadows, spotlights, subtle color changes and soft candlelight at one point gave the show an all-encompassing, somewhat dreamy atmosphere at times that made you feel like you were inside the deteriorating mind of main character Willy Loman, played by Warren Sampson.  Sampson’s Willy, all his manic highs and depressive lows, are perfectly balanced, never insulting the character, understanding that Willy is pure ego on one hand and pure desperation on the other.

Willy’s sons Biff and Happy, played by Ty Hudson and Max Lorei, are creations of both the ego and desperation.  Willy has convinced his sons that not only can you be anything in the world that they already were everything.  As young boys they worshiped their father, but now as adults Biff, the eldest, sees Willy in a much harsher light and lives a life his father resents.  Where Happy ignores the reality around him and follows his father’s lead in life.  The scenes when Willy and his sons interact were some of the most compelling things I have seen on stage.  The drama and skill I was seeing, from the acting, to the costuming and set design made me feel like I was watching a television drama.

The glue of this family, Linda Loman, the mother and wife, heartbreakingly portrayed by Martha Wigmore was nothing short of brilliant.  This actress and character endured to me so much.  She was The Mom of that era.  Staying at home, tending to her children, paying the bills while her husband was on the road making the money.  Constantly propping up and never being valued herself.

I watched the second part of the show with a pit in my stomach that was deliberately placed there by the production itself.  Kirsten Sawyer, playing Willy’s other woman, offers a booming laugh that echoes through the theater that at first is coquettish but turns downright wicked as the show draws closer to the end.  These little flourishes and moments convey to the audience the discomfort and tension that the Loman family feels constantly.

The show while, well, depressing is completely worth seeing.  You will be thinking about it days later, analyzing and letting it roll around in your head.  Death of a Salesman is iconic for a reason and Lyric Arts gives us a great reminder why that is.

A little bit about Roxy Orcutt: Roxy Orcutt, a self-professed “Professional Halloween Lover” lives in Anoka with her husband, children and various pets, including a black cat, of course.  Roxy runs the website The Halloween Honey, a year-round destination for all things Halloween.  www.halloweenhoney.com.

Meet Ty Hudson performing in Death of a Salesman

Headshot_TyHudson_135x135Meet Ty Hudson, who is performing as Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman. Read on to learn about the rehearsal process, how he’s developing his character, and why you should take a chance on this show! LA: Where are you originally from?

TH: I am originally from South Sioux City, Nebraska.  There's more than just cornfields there I promise!

LA: Why did this particular play interest you?

TH: I studied Death of a Salesman in college and was enamored with the story as soon as I read it.  I had the opportunity to be in All My Sons, another Arthur Miller play, and thought it was the most gratifying performance I have had in my theatrical career thus far...until this.

LA: For those unfamiliar with Death of a Salesman can you tell us about the show?

TH: It is the story of a family that is trying to rediscover itself.  There is a lot of underlying pain in each member of the Loman family, and throughout the play they try to put the pieces back together again or die trying.  It is a story of loss, pain, and attempted redemption.

LA: Talk about the character(s) that you play in Death of a Salesman How have you developed this character(s)?

TH: Biff is one of those roles that comes along once in a lifetime.  I think every 20-30 year-old actor has it at or near the top of their dream role list.  Biff is the son to Willy Loman, the show's protagonist.  He is discovering himself still at the age of 34 and is trying to decide if he can still actively be a part of this family after his dad hurts him in an emotionally traumatic way.  Developing the character has been a wonderful challenge that has been made so much easier with the help of Bob Neu's direction.  The most challenging, yet rewarding, part of the experience has been the emotional journey that Biff goes on.  Tackling that has been quite the process, but boy do I go home every night feeling like I discovered not only something new about the character but also about myself.

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?

TH: This cast is incredible.  I have had the pleasure of working with some great talents in the Twin Cities in my short time here and have been extremely blessed to be a part of this crew as well.  The support and complimentary attitude of everyone in the show is just amazing.  You walk into rehearsal everyday knowing that not only are you in a safe environment to explore with these wonderful performers, but I am excited to have had the chance to know them as well and carry these relationships on with me after the show is done.

If I had to point out one particular person it would have to be Warren who plays Willy.  I have followed his lead since day one when we stepped into the callback room and had the chance to work together.  The way he plunges head first into the role is outstanding.  I hope to be the kind of actor that he is someday.

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Death of a Salesman?

TH: I think the entire cast and crew's cohesiveness has impressed me.  They seem to work in such great unison that if there are hiccups behind the scenes, I have no idea.  Everyone covers for each other and once again is so dang nice.  The folks behind the scenes do a terrific job of letting everything run smoothly, and I feel confident in saying that as actors we are in great hands.

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Death of a Salesman?

TH: It is an American classic.  It is beautifully directed by Bob Neu.  It is a timeless tale that is still relevant today.  It is a show that I think theatres are somewhat scared to do, and Lyric Arts is brave enough to tackle.  This chance doesn't come around too often so you should give it a shot.  You won't be disappointed.

LA: What was your first job you ever had?

TH: The first job I ever had was at a Mexican restaurant called "La Fiesta".  I wasn't that great at speaking Spanish, but I scraped by.  I would come home every night smelling of Mexican food and having salsa all over my white button up.  It was a good time though.

LA: Sum up Death of a Salesman in 3 words?

TH: Family, Angst, Tragedy.

LA: What is your favorite thing about Lyric Arts?

TH: The people.  Cast, crew, staff.  Everyone that I have met has had a smile on their face, been so welcoming, and gives full support to Death of a Salesman.  I would recommend this place to other actors in a heartbeat if they are looking for a theatre that handles itself in a professional manner while not depriving one of the freedom to explore and create something an actor can be proud of.

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

TH:I just moved up to the Twin Cities in September, and I cannot say enough about this wonderful city.  It has been a dream come true to finally get up here and pursue my dream of acting.  I have a wonderful fiance' who's overwhelming support has been incredibly heartwarming.  I am crazy about family and friends.  This show sends me home thinking about my lovely father, mother, and brother every single night.

'Magnificent Terror' - An interview with Martha Wigmore about her role in "Death of a Salesman"

The second time I met Martha Wigmore she made me cry.Emily Anderson

It was in rehearsal for (you guessed it!) Death of a Salesman and Linda is on the phone with her oldest son, Biff, and she tells him some wonderful news about something Willy, her husband, did. She is so exuberant and happy...then as she listens to the other end of the line she gets quiet. She slumps a little more. You can literally watch her heart as it breaks within her, but she picks up the pieces and, incredibly, soldiers on.

And I cried like I haven’t cried since the first time I saw Les Miz on stage.

I thought you might like a chance to get to know this absolutely incredible woman, so I asked her to sit down with me and talk about some of her experiences with this show and with acting.

Emily: So Martha, how many shows have you been in?

Headshot_MarthaWigmore_135x135Martha: Salesman is my 30th show since I first started performing ten years ago in 2002. What a lovely benchmark!

E: What is that like?

M: In productions at other theatres I have especially enjoyed playing classical roles, including Baptista (played as a mother) in Taming of the Shrew, Lady Britomart in Shaw’s Major Barbara, and Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet.

I also treasure having played Lyric Arts’ friend Tim Gage’s mother in his play Danny is Going to Die.

E: Have you done any shows at Lyric before?

M: I’ve been in 9 shows at Lyric Arts, plus one Fishing Widow's Cabaret. Some favorites might be: Death of a Salesman as Linda Loman, directed by Robert Neu, April 2013 Leading Ladies as Florence, directed by Robert Neu, September 2011 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as Big Mama, directed by Scott Ford, September 2010

E: How do you like working at Lyric Arts?

M: One could say that I’ve felt Lyric Arts’ embrace from the get-go! I’m forever grateful to director Phil Bologna for casting me...in my first plays at Lyric. I’ve learned so much here. It’s always been a great ride at Lyric.

E: How you approach a character like Linda?

M: Without the accumulated experiences I have had on stage, I could never feel as safe with the role of ‘Linda Loman’ as I do at this time. It has felt that this role, this production, this director and I converged at the right time. That said, every moment in this role is a magnificent terror. There is tremendous responsibility to properly tell this playwright’s truth.

I love doing this role at this time in my life where my experiences so exquisitely inform my understanding of this character and her family. There’s a lot of love in this couple or they couldn’t be together. This is OUR story – ‘OUR’ being all women, all men. It is us, on so many levels.

I love plays with muscular language, in which the act of speaking is a physical act. Miller’s language just ‘sings’, start to finish. Death of the Salesman is the ultimate actor’s play.

E: How do you think we’re doing?

M: This cast, director, and crew is a memorable convergence of talent. It is evident that at this point we share a deep respect for the beauty of this masterpiece. But there is nothing stuffy in our explorations of the play – every day brings new discoveries and approaches. The cast has caught the immediacy of this story for all humanity, regardless the time period. There is such truth and unguarded exposure in these performances. It is deeply moving and humbling to be working with this group.

E: How you like working with Director Robert Neu?

M: None of the productions I have been in has had the complexity of Salesman in both technical and acting aspects, and Bob is as thoroughly prepared as a conductor for rehearsal. He comes each day intimately familiar with the entire ‘score’, the text of the play, and is a master at planning and using rehearsal time to greatest benefit. Bob has a deep appreciation for the ‘music’ of Miller’s text and is dedicated to make it sing and feel appropriately varied through our performances. He is respectful of actors, perceptive with his questions and careful with his suggestions, creating a rehearsal environment in which it is safe for the actor to explore. The idea of discovery fuels the rehearsal process.

E: Is there anything you’d like to tell the folks at home?

M: I’m the poster-child for lifelong learning and growth. I was too shy to even consider performing or singing until my 40’s. But various hobbies gave me life experiences that steadily built up my confidence in public, and finally my shower-singing moved to the stage (with clothes on!). All of which flowed from learning to love myself so that I could genuinely ‘love my neighbor’. That’s one powerful tool.

E: Can you sum up Death of a Salesman in three words?

M:  Resonance, Nakedness, Love

Broccoli is Good...and Good For You

When many of us are young, we have a great dislike for broccoli…well, for vegetables in general. (As the mother of seven-year-old twins, I have witnessed this first-hand.) Your parents and teachers can tell you over and over again how good it is for you and how it doesn’t really taste that bad.  But, no matter how much they praise its merits, to you, it still tastes (and looks and smells) pretty awful.

Then, something amazing happens you get older. Begrudgingly, you start eating broccoli because it’s good for you. Then, something even more amazing happens...you start to really enjoy eating broccoli. You can appreciate the taste, the texture, and even the smell.

Often, when we select a script like Death of Salesman for our season we sometimes refer to it as “broccoli,” because it is a play that is filled with stuff that makes it just plain good for you. And, after watching a run-through rehearsal of the show last night, I was reminded just how good broccoli can taste.

Most of us have our first (and maybe only) encounter with Death of a Salesman in high school English class. As a teenager, you may have found it difficult to connect to the story and to the characters, leaving you with the impression that it’s heavy and boring and depressing.

If you can relate to this, I would like to encourage you to give Willy Loman and his family another try, now that you have a little more life experience. After watching the way that director Bob Neu and his cast have brought this quintessential American drama to life, I was reminded how truly relevant this story is and how universal its themes still are.

Arthur Miller constructed a story of a family grappling with the American Dream. There are very few who can’t relate to working their hardest and giving their all and never feeling as though they are truly getting ahead. It is a story of growing up, of watching your children grow up, of watching your parents age, and of coming to grips with your own mortality. It’s also a story about the grand dreams we have for our lives and how difficult it can be when the reality turns out to be not quite as grand.

Like life, Death of a Salesman is occasionally very funny. But, it is also sad, sometimes heartbreaking. More importantly, however, it is a cautionary tale that will encourage you to count your blessings and appreciate the happiness of the reality in which you live…and it will do it in the most life-affirming way.

Death of a Salesman is one of the world’s most celebrated pieces of theater and there is a reason why. It is absolutely worth the ride.

What I’m getting at is this: Don’t be afraid to eat your broccoli. It might just become your favorite vegetable.

Meet Brandon Holscher who is performing in Death of a Salesman

Meet Brandon Holscher, who is performing as Charley in Death of a Salesman. Read on to learn about the rehearsal process, how he’s developing his character, and why you should take a chance on this show! LA: Where are you originally from?

BH: Nordeast Minneapolis.  Everyone thinks I’m from the East Coast because of my accent, but I’m from here: blue collar Nordeast.

LA: Why did this particular play interest you?

BH: I love Arthur Miller (All My Sons is one of my favorite plays).  Death of a Salesman is an American Classic. 

LA: For those unfamiliar with Death of a Salesman can you tell us about the show?

BH: This is a wonderful tale of the hazards of the American Dream:  What happens when success in business is denied. Willy Loman doesn’t appreciate what he has.  He’s constantly looking for more.

LA: Talk about the character(s) that you play in Death of a Salesman. How have you developed this character(s)?

BH: I play Willy’s neighbor and best friend Charley.  Charley helps Willy every chance he can, and Willy treats Charley poorly.  I had to find a reason why Charley stays loyal to Willy. I built a back story where Charley has to raise his son, Bernard, without a wife.  He wants to make sure that Willy doesn’t lose what Charley wishes he had:  A wonderful family.

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?

BH:The entire cast is very, very good.  The Loman family (Warren. Martha, Ty, and Max) will be remembered and talked about for a long time, but the supporting cast (Bill, Kirsten, Ryan, Megan, and Emily) really help give this story life.  All the actors are extremely talented.  But since you asked me for someone in particular, I will single out Kenny Kiser.  He plays my son Bernard.  He makes it easy for me to play Charley.  When he plays Bernard as a teenager, he makes it so easy for me to want to guide him and give him advice.  When he plays Bernard as an adult, he makes it easy for me to be proud of him.  The transformation of his character is flawless.

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Death of a Salesman?

BH: The psychological effects and burden that the artificial vision of the American Dream has on people.  The idea that we are nothing if we are not successful in business is detrimental to human behavior.  Warren Sampson has developed a wonderful character on this premise.

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Death of a Salesman?

BH: Bob Neu and his crew have created a very stylized and deeply touching vision of a classic story.  He is a talented Director and knows how to shape a very talented cast.  This will be a top notch production.

LA: What was your first job you ever had?

BH: I was a clerk at Baskin Robbins in Downtown Minneapolis in the 1970’s.  That place was a very hot spot during lunch.

LA: Sum up Death of a Salesman in 3 words?

BH: Enjoy Life Now.

LA: What is your favorite thing about Lyric Arts?

BH: Lyric Arts is very professional and well directed.  I enjoy working with talented people.

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

BH: I’m somewhat new to acting.  I never acted in school. I was always interested in sports and raised four children in Champlin.  I was very involved with CDAA coaching baseball, football, softball, soccer, and basketball.  When my children became adults, I decided to try something new.  My first play was in November 2011 and since then I’ve been very lucky to be cast in nine plays and five short films.  I love the characters I play and I hope I bring some entertainment to audiences.  I am an IT Director in real life and I have two granddaughters, so I am very busy and very well blessed.

Meet Bill Marshall Performing in Death of a Salesman

Meet Bill Marshall, who is performing as Ben in Death of a Salesman. Read on to learn about the rehearsal process, how he’s developing his character, and why you should take a chance on this show!

LA: Where are you originally from?

BM: I grew up in Chicago and moved to Minneapolis in 1986 with my wife, Margaret.

LA: Why did this particular play interest you?

BM: It was my father’s favorite play. He used to recite lines from it. There aren’t many chances to be part of one of the greatest plays ever written, so it is an honor.

LA: For those unfamiliar with Death of a Salesman can you tell us about the show?

BM: The tragic center of the play is Willy Loman, a career shoe salesman reaching the end of the line and seeing his world falling apart.  He is disillusioned and slowly losing contact with reality. The dysfunctional Loman family is the result of a man spending his life misplaced.  

LA: Talk about the character(s) that you play in Death of a Salesman How have you developed this character(s)?

BM: I am playing the role of Ben. He is Willy’s long lost and well-travelled brother. He is a very tricky character because he only exists in Willy’s mind. He appears four times in the play as a vehicle to further Willy’s slide to oblivion. We are working on communicating Ben as a bit removed emotionally, larger than life, aloof.   

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?

BM: The greatest joy is watching my fellow actors. They are doing some heart-wrenching and fearless work in this show.  The beauty of this play is there are no incidental characters; certainly some of them are much smaller than others but they all serve a deep purpose. Director, Bob Neu is doing a masterful job of allowing the actors to explore while having a firm hand on his vision.  The work is so intense that it takes great care by the director to guide this process while keeping actors’ confidence buoyed.

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Death of a Salesman?

BM: The raw emotions are exquisitely drawn by Arthur Miller.  Although some of the language is from 1949 the story is timeless.

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Death of a Salesman?

BM: It is arguably the greatest play written in the 20th century. It is a great reminder that theater is not all about musicals and comedy. You will leave the theater having had a deepened human experience.

LA: What was your first job you ever had?

BM: Putting together the Sunday Chicago Tribune on Friday and Saturday for $8. If I worked really fast I made a buck an hour (foreshadow for Death of a Salesman) and a nod to how old I am!

LA: Sum up Death of a Salesman in 3 words?

BM: Heart-wrenching, intense, loving.

LA: What is your favorite thing about Lyric Arts?

BM: The professionalism and joy I see in the staff and production teams.

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

BM: I retired after 30 years in the printing industry. I am realizing my dream of singing and acting. I have been a guest soloist with a variety of choruses and symphonies in the past few years. I have also appeared on five different Twin Cities theater stages in dramatic and musical theater. I am married to my wife, Margaret and we have three adult daughters, Angela, Kate and Sadie.