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ON DEATH OF A SALESMAN


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Death of a Salesman … has so much to say about who we are as Americans. We strive endlessly; we’re fueled by ambition; we often measure ourselves by how much money we have, and so on. Here in the age of income inequality – a time when we haven’t yet recovered from the financial crisis, and millions of Americans are searching for work – it surely hits home when Willy Loman is fired, after 36 loyal years to his company, by the wealthy … son of the man who had hired him all those many years ago. Yet as much as that scene speaks to this moment, it also transcends it. In the business world, the 1950s and 1960s was the era of “The Organization Man” (a phrase coined by the great journalist William Whyte). The implicit bargain was that if employees were loyal to their company, the company would be loyal to them … That compact broke down a long time ago – as corporations began to place “shareholder value” over all other values, and firing employees became something executives did whenever the share price dropped. That has been the corporate ethos for at least 30 years. How could Arthur Miller have known that the plight of Willy Loman would eventually be the plight of tens of millions of white collar workers who had outlived their usefulness to the companies they had devoted their lives to, and had derived their sense of self from? He was prophetic …

“A Conversation with Charles Isherwood and Joe Nocera,”
The New York Times, Joe Nocera, March 1, 2012


(Left to Right) Lois Stark (Member of the Alley Theatre Board of Directors),
Lynn Wyatt (Member of the Alley Theatre Board of Directors), Arthur Miller and Colleen Dewhurst
with the first Alley Award in1984. Photo courtesy of Lois Stark.

 

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