Death of a Salesman, Act One!
This scene involves all four members of the Loman family but is really a major confrontation between Willy and Biff. If the scene is to be performed without (or before) the rest of the play, it is necessary to explain some family history, including Willy’s suicide attempts. The scene runs from Biff’s angry “Screw the business world!” (so obviously the world his father loves best) through a defeated Willy’s “Give my best to Bill Oliver—he may remember me.” This line marks his exit. The student working on Willy’s role must find moments of pride, of fear, of happiness, of hopelessness in this one short passage. Biff can be viewed as a caged animal. At first he is deliberately trying to be supportive and to assume unwanted responsibilities; as he feels his own mounting tension, he fights against the pressures of his mother, his brother, and his father’s illusions.
Marigolds Act Two2
This scene involves Beatrice and her two daughters. All are eccentric. Tillie is excited and happy here. Ruth, too, is excited, but is still “Crazy Ruth.” This is Beatrice’s only moment of pure joy in the play—and it is expressed as a mother’s pride—the memory of her past lurks in the fuss she makes over her own appearance, over Tillie’s appearance, over the long-awaited social event (these parallel Willy’s return to glory through Biff’s possible business deal). The conflict emerges when a terrified Ruth challenges Beatrice’s authority. In order to protect herself, Ruth lashes out at her mothers’ secret past. At the end of the scene, Bea, like Willy, is both defeated and destroyed.
for Cuttings: Distribute the Scripts and assign parts. Students should practice interruptions that do not interfere with word completions (ex: “I hate you. I—”/ “I hate you, too:”). The timing allows the effect of spontaneous interruption to occur without damaging the audience’s ability to hear all the dialogue. Discuss what is happening both emotionally and physically in the scene.
Here, the teacher-director must decide on the degree of structure to be imposed. I suggest you tell students a great deal about what these characters are like, especially if these are the first few cuttings you do. Also, students will feel less insecure if they know what they are working toward.