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Playwrights on Playwriting: Arthur Miller

November 4, 2016

“So, there was a kind of confidence underlying this play, a self-disarming quality that was in part born of my belief in the audience as being essentially the same as myself. If I had wanted, then, to put the audience reaction into words, it would not have been ‘What happened next, and why?’ so much as ‘Oh, God, of course!’ ” [Arthur Miller, speaking about Death of a Salesman, quoted in Playwrights on Playwriting]

As I am weaving scenes from a marriage into a play, a modern—or perhaps not so modern—or perhaps timeless—tragedy arising from the intimate preoccupations that precede and ultimately lead to unforgivable betrayal, I myself should heed Miller’s words.

The subject matter may be lofty, the characters and their deeds at least superficially familiar, but the playwright’s intent must be to write to his audience, about themselves. Things they can understand on a deep-seated physical level, a feeling that “This is—or it could be—me.”

No audience wants to be preached at. They want to see themselves, doing what they do in their ordinary lives, making the mistakes they regret, or will regret. Therein lies the drama, or the tragedy.

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