All My Sons Director’s Note

Playwright Arthur Miller first got the idea for his play All My Sons when his mother-in-law in Ohio showed him a newspaper story about a young woman who had informed authorities that her own father had sold faulty parts to the military during World War Two. 

Miller used the event to build a story about Joe Keller and his family in the post war years of prosperity and hope. Another great influence on Miller was Henrik Ibsen. From Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck, he took the basic idea of one of a pair of business partners who is forced to take moral and legal responsibility for the other. Miller also borrowed the idea of another character’s idealism being a detriment to his destiny.

Three American playwrights burst upon the scene between 1946 and 1953: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and William Inge. All three would win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama (Miller, Death of a Salesman; Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof; Inge, Picnic) .

For me, Miller writes the most real and indentifiable characters. Williams’ characters were often wrapped up in fantasy and spent much time re-living past glories or tragedies i.e. the Wingfields in The Glass Menagerie. Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. When faced with reality in the person(s) of Jim the Gentleman Caller, Stanley Kolwalski, or Maggie the Cat, the collision usually resulted in tragedy.

Inge wrote of ordinary people who longed for a healthier emotional life, but who were often trapped in stifling personal circumstances. His most famous women characters Lola in Come Back, Little Sheba and Madge in Picnic were women whose ultimate destiny was controlled by the men they chose to have in their lives.

All My Sons was first produced on Broadway in January, 1947. Arthur Miller had not had a “hit” in the theatre, and had declared that if this play was not successful, he would give up writing and go into another line of work. It won the Tony Award that year for Best Play and for Best Director (Elia Kazan). It also won the

New York Drama Circle Award for best play.

Miller wrote strongly. He took to task the post war optimism that the American Dream was for everyone and that all of the casualities of the recent war were overseas. The effect of the death of a son in the Keller family, and the notion that the person responsible might just be the most respected of all persons, still gives one pause.

The power of this play, I think, is in its characters and their relationships with each other and the world. As the circumstances unfold, we are also faced with some political and personal truths that still register with us today.

That is the hallmark of good drama. It transcends its time and makes us see ourselves and our circumstances with a clear eye.

I am happy to be directing this show for Putnam County Playhouse, and I am sure it is one that our audiences will enjoy. I am looking for a strong cast. Auditions will includes readings from the script. As the time approaches, I will list the sections that each character will be reading so that auditioners can prepare.

I need strong actors who are familiar with the play and who can work well with others in exploring the themes in this outstanding drama.

Jack Randall Earles