By Zachary Landau | the Duquesne Duke
Seeing the set for the Red Masquers’ production of “Death of a Salesman” gets one really excited for the performance. When audiences enter the Genesius Theater, they are going to be wonderfully surprised. Three seamless sets, beautifully constructed and intricately designed, represent a whole new way of performing for the actors in this season’s first performance.
Because of the design of the theater, the audience sits on three sides of the stage, a striking difference from the typical proscenium theaters most people have attended. This design affords the use of three separate sets on one stage, with the bedroom even surrounding a couple of seats in the audience.
“It was difficult at first,” Duquesne theater arts director John Lane said, “because [the actors] were trying to line up like it was a proscenium … but they got it.”
Because of this set-up, normal acting conventions, such as turning toward the front of the stage, are dropped, allowing for what Lane described as more natural acting.
Lane is the director of the Red Masquers’ production of “Death of a Salesman.” This play is the 100th production that Lane has directed.
“Death of a Salesman” is a very significant piece of American literature. Its plot revolves around the Loman family and their struggle trying to obtain the American Dream. The play remains relevant to people’s lives today, and it’s “probably even more effective today” as Lane explained. He said the issues addressed are relevant to “people [who] are having a hard time achieving their American Dream … these are just timeless issues.”
Lane also explained the ways that the new theater has proved to be helpful to the forming of the production. He describes how set construction was simplified by the in-house scene shop, “so we can build things [there], and when they’re completed, bring them up onto the stage.” This shop allows actors to utilize the stage for practice and for crew to work throughout the week without interrupting the cast and other classes.
Higher technical demands needed for Death of a Salesman can also be easily met with the theater’s new equipment. “The stage manager particularly is really excited,” Lane explained. “[We] have all of this new equipment and we’re eager to use it and show it off. It’s a technically complicated show … So she’s really eager to step up to the challenge in making the show run smoothly.”
The cast is made of a wide variety of students, alumni, professors and even some outside help. Mark Yochum, a law professor of 30 years at Duquesne, stars as Willy Loman, with Nancy Bach, an acting professor here at Duquesne and Point Park, and Curt Wootton, star of “Pittsburgh Dad,” filling in as Linda and Biff, respectively. Returning from last year is sophomore Nathaniel Yost as Happy. Most of the student actors are freshmen, which provides an opportunity to see the debut of many talented students and the potential to watch them grow as they go on to starring roles in future productions of the Red Masquers.
The Red Masquers’ production of “Death of a Salesman” runs for three weeks: Oct. 1-3, 8-10, 15-17 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 4, 11, and 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be reserved at duqredmasquers.com, or reserved via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.