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‘All My Sons’ headed for China

By : Eric Coker

The staging of All My Sons has brought a new level of anticipation for the cast and crew of Arthur Miller’s 1947 classic play.

The production won’t come to an end with the final bows in the Watters Theatre, as All My Sons will be taken to the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts in Beijing in late May.

“It makes us want the show to be even better than it would be otherwise,” said Carol Hanscom, a University acting instructor who plays Kate Keller in the production. “This show will represent us, our University and our country in China. It’s an exciting kind of pressure.”

Miller’s play tells the story of a post-World War II family torn between duty and responsibility. The family patriarch, Joe Keller (played by Theatre Professor Tom Kremer, who also is the show’s director and Hanscom’s husband), helped to sell defective airplane parts to the Army during the war, resulting in fatal crashes. The offense returns to haunt Keller and his family.

All My Sons will be on the Watters Theater stage at 8 p.m. April 23-24, April 30 and May 1 and at 2 p.m. May 2. Tickets are $14, general admission; $12, faculty/staff/seniors; and $8, students.

The Theatre Department’s partnership with the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts began in 2004 and has included performances of works such as Romeo and Juliet. The cast, production members and a student translator will depart May 24 for China and restage the show from May 28-30. During the two-week stay, the Binghamton group also will take part in workshops and lectures.

All My Sons was chosen specifically for the China trip, Kremer said.

“I thought it was the play that would speak to the Chinese the best,” said Kremer, who credited Theatre Associate Professor Don Boros and scenic artist Qianghua Wang with “laying the groundwork” for the collaboration. “It’s about business. It’s about things that have happened in China and America.”

The Beijing show will be performed in English with Chinese supertitles (the supertitles also will appear at Binghamton). It will also feature an advanced lighting design for the larger theater, Kremer said.

Kremer, Hanscom and the cast have never been to China, but are excited about the prospects.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Rebecca Cohen, a senior who plays Lydia Lubey. “To be able to graduate and not to go home, but go to China with my friends is an adventure I can’t wait to have. To be able to bring our passion to the other side of the world is what it’s about.”

“We’re going to able to explore with people we are already familiar with,” said junior Ben Williamson, who plays Chris Keller. “It’s going to be unbelievable.”

All My Sons is also unique because it gives Kremer the chance to serve as director and actor. Kremer formed an assistant directing team consisting of Hanscom, Cohen and student cast member Matthew Van Vorst to help balance the duties he called “very, very unusual and difficult.”

Cast members said observing the chemistry between Kremer and Hanscom has been a great learning experience. The instructors have relished the stage work with their students, as well.

“It is a joy to be onstage with your students,” Kremer said. “There is an energy that is different. It’s exciting.

“This play is an ensemble effort,” he added. “Everybody regards everybody in the play equally. We are becoming a family by the way we’re working together.”

That family dynamic will be easy for the Binghamton and Beijing audiences to pick up in All My Sons, as Miller wrote relatable human characters.

“It remains a classic because it’s a great exploration of what it is to be a human being: the choices we make that can either destroy our lives or bring joy to our lives,” Kremer said. “He takes the ordinary and raises it to the extraordinary.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08