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The Birth of All My Sons

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Arthur Miller, known for his instructions on crafting a compelling play, advocated simplicity. He pointed to the Book of Genesis as the ultimate model, where the entire human race is depicted in a mere page and a half. According to Miller, a story that endures is one that conveys its message concisely and avoids wastefulness. In 1943, at the age of 28, Miller embarked on writing "All My Sons" with the ambition of capturing the trauma and tragedy of World War II within a single day in the life of an American family. Drawing inspiration from the Old Testament seemed fitting, considering the biblical scale of destruction evident in the unfolding global conflict.

World War II is regarded as the most significant and harrowing event in human history, shaking people worldwide out of their ordinary routines into a state of violence, catastrophe, chaos, and devastation that lasted from September 1939 to August 1945. The war resulted in the loss of over 60 million lives, leaving survivors grappling to comprehend their experiences, which often defied explanation.

Miller himself was not a combatant, classified as 4-F due to a knee injury sustained during high school football. While his older brother, Kermit, enlisted as an Army infantry captain and headed to Europe, Miller remained behind. Throughout the war, Kermit sent poignant letters from the battlefields of France and Belgium to his younger brother, filled with accounts of the self-sacrifice, camaraderie, and dedication displayed by the young men he led into combat.

Having studied playwriting in college, Miller utilized his skills during the war. From 1942 to 1945, he worked as a roving reporter, visiting Army hospitals and training camps, conversing with soldiers, and transforming their stories into patriotic radio plays for CBS and NBC. One particular broadcast involved Miller interviewing Air Force pilots who had been injured in Germany and were now receiving treatment back home. The horrific injuries suffered by these young men, some barely 19 or 20 years old, deeply affected Miller. He felt compelled not to ignore their plight but rather to honor them by writing their stories.

The birth of "All My Sons" occurred in 1943 when Miller, feeling like a bystander as others perished in the war, came across the news of a young girl in central Ohio who reported her own father to the FBI for producing defective aircraft parts. This scandal dominated headlines, as a profit-driven industrialist at the Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Corporation knowingly supplied faulty engines to the U.S. Army Air Forces, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots flying P-40 Warhawk fighter planes.

This gripping plot became the catalyst Miller had been waiting for—a tale illustrating a child's strong sense of social responsibility triumphing over loyalty to her own father. For Miller, this anecdote encapsulated the fundamental question at the heart of the war: Were people fighting solely for their own families, or were they fighting for the well-being of all humanity?

To trace the evolution of "All My Sons" within Miller's creative mind, researchers turned to the Arthur Miller Collection at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas, Austin. This archive houses Miller's journals, diaries, correspondence, wartime radio scripts, and early drafts of the play. By examining Miller's diary from 1943 to 1945, filled with poems, scene fragments, and his reflections on how the play could influence American audiences, researchers gained insights into his hopes of using theater to transform the world.

A comparison between Miller's early drafts of "All My Sons" (titled "The Sign of the Archer" and "Morning, Noon and Night") and the final version revealed the process of character development, storyline refinement, and language evolution within Miller's mind.

Miller claimed that in this play, he sought to reconstruct his own life, stepping into the shoes of his brother, father, and mother. To ensure authenticity, thorough research was conducted on the Miller family, who were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They experienced great success as garment manufacturers in the aftermath of World War I, only to lose everything during the Crash of 1929. Miller witnessed his parents' swift descent from affluence to poverty. In 1942, he saw his brother, Kermit, depart for war, and in 1945, he welcomed him back home, a broken and traumatized version of his former self.

By intertwining his personal history with the daily life of an average American family, Miller infused "All My Sons" with the weight of the defining events of the 20th century: the immigrant experience, the Great Depression, World War II, the arrival of peace, and the return of soldiers.

"All My Sons" represents a tale of creation and destruction, a revelation from a playwright who believed that building a better world was the only response to the global ordeal of war.

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OR TEXT  838255

Box  Office: 973-907-7775

$33 Adults    $31  Seniors/Children (17 and under)

Military & Family of Fallen Soldiers $15

Purple Heart Recipients Free

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How To Get Here

247 Wanaque Ave
Pompton Lakes, NJ 07442

Parking Note: Parking is available in the lot directly behind the theatre. There is also some limited on street parking (metered) in front of the theatre.

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