Celeste Cosentino, Director of Death of a Salesman and Artistic Director of Ensemble Theatre, responds to Cleveland Stage Alliance’s “5 Questions” from CSA resident critic Kevin Kelly.
Why did you choose to direct this show?
I have always been a Miller fan, and this being his centennial (he would have been 100 this year:)) it seemed a fitting tribute. My mother and I were always fans of his “A View from the Bridge”, but Death of A Salesman was the piece he won the Pulitzer for and is considered one of the greatest American plays of the twentieth century for a reason:)
Why does the world need this production, or, another production of this show?
I think this show is VERY timely. It speaks to the illusion of the American Dream. We all strive for greatness and not all of us are able to get there. With the marginalization of the middle class and the sacrifice of people for profit in the name of “progress” I think it speaks very strongly to modern society and how we define ourselves and our successes. It also speaks to the “death of the salesman” and what happens when a person is no longer essential and when one’s lively hood is eliminated. Willy lives in a lot of his memories in this play, because that was a time when he felt he WAS these things he dreams about…
Can you share some memorable moments from the rehearsal period?
There was a lot of crying at the first rehearsal…. and watching the technical side of the show come to life (the lights and the set) was like watching a master painter creating a magnificent canvas. Ron and Ian and Stephen and Steven did SUCH a fantastic job with the tech side of things on this show. The actors are also amazing so it makes for a memorable show all around.
As you watched your opening weekend, what resonates with you from the audience?
The laughing and then the silence. It seems that with this particular audience you can travel along Willy’s emotional journey by listening to the audience. They are silent and focused in the more dramatic parts and laughing during the more lighthearted parts of the show (no it’s not all depressing…:)). It is a bit of an emotional roller coaster (as I think all great plays are), and it is wonderful to hear the audience react to those highs and lows.
What do you think you and the actors have accomplished?
We have created such a wonderful little family of misfits toys:) I know that is the wrong show, but we are such a friendly and supporting group with this show. This show is ALL about the LOVE within this family and how it plays out for each of it’s members. I think that the brothers (the actors Keith and Jonathon) have created such a real life brotherhood…. Greg and Mary Alice sit on the bed before each show and talk with one another. There is a real ensemble feeling with this show (even with all the ancillary roles) and a real sense of family. There is a gambit of human emotion in this piece and they have performed this emotionally charged piece with such finesse. I told them to never stop digging and to never stop pushing. This is not necessarily a piece you can get totally comfortable in.
Greg White as Willy
Mary Alice Beck as Linda
Keith E. Stevens* as Biff
Johnathon L. Jackson as Hap
Photo credit: Celeste Cosentino
$12-$24 Reserved Seating
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2843 Washington Blvd
Cleveland, OH 44118