By: Tara Bennett
To ask guest director Jane Page her favorite moment in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” would be the equivalent of asking her to pick her favorite child.
“I don’t know if there is one,” said Page. “I think it’s just a great evening in the theatre. It’s a great story and quite a journey for every character in the play.”
This will be Page’s second show guest directing for Swine Palace since directing Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” in 2006. Page has been a freelance director for 30 years, and recently joined the faculty at University of California at Irvine where she heads the directing program. Her past directing credits include classics like “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” to name a fraction of her body of work. This week she’ll be given the chance to check off an item on her director’s wish list, all thanks to the Swine Palace.
“I love Swine Palace, and I had a wonderful time the first time, and I’m having a splendid time this time,” said Page. “I’m really tickled to be invited back, and also get to do this amazing play. It’s a play that has been on my wish list for many, many years.”
Considered an American masterpiece, “All My Sons” examines the relationships between fathers and sons, the prices paid for the American Dream, the emotional scars of war, and the human struggle between ethical and legal conscience. While contemporary audiences primarily know Miller for “Death of a Salesman,” another family drama, it was “All My Sons” that established Miller as a leading voice in the American theatre. According to Page, if “All My Sons” had not received its acclaim, Miller would have put his writing efforts to use somewhere else other than playwriting.
“‘All My Sons’ is quite a different play than ‘Death of a Salesman,’ but they’re linked in this terms of this trajectory of this great American writer,” said Page.
The play tells the story of Joe Keller who was partners with Steve Deever in a machine shop during World War II that turned out defective airplane parts, causing the deaths of many men. Deever was sent to prison, while Keller escaped punishment and went on to enjoy freedom and financial success. Years later, Joe’s son Chris begins a love affair with Steve’s daughter, Ann, setting off a string of events that will change the two families forever.
“I think it’s a wonderfully complicated play, and also a play full of heart in a sense of America, and of American values and the questioning and understanding of how families work,” said Page.
Page kept to the traditional format of the show, keeping it set in 1947. The only change included was sticking to one intermission rather than two. It is Page’s belief that the show need not be updated as it can stand up to 21st century audiences.
“It’s really universal in terms of [being] about a family, about the landscape of what happens to family when there are secrets kept, and at what price,” said Page. “It also addresses the issues of business, and the American dream, and the issues of ethics and morals.”
Professional actors were brought in from New York City and Los Angeles along with students from LSU and children from the community, creating a diverse age range for the cast.
“I think for them being in a play with adults of professional caliber they’re getting to work with is really a treat,” said Page. “And they get to play kids with grownups old enough to be their grandparents playing those roles. It’s quite lovely.”
“All My Sons” will run from Feb. 4 to Feb. 15 at the Shaver Theatre located on LSU’s campus. Showtime begins at 7:30 p.m. with afternoon performances beginning at 2 p.m. on Feb. 8 and Feb. 15. Ticket prices range from $15-30.