From left, “Death of a Salesman” actors Joel Hoffman, Michael Sickles and Karen Reeder work with director Merv Wingard, discussing blocking/movement in a scene. (Olympic Theatre Arts)

From left, “Death of a Salesman” actors Joel Hoffman, Michael Sickles and Karen Reeder work with director Merv Wingard, discussing blocking/movement in a scene. (Olympic Theatre Arts)

Olympic Theatre Arts’ ‘Death of a Salesman’ in rehearsal

SEQUIM — Olympic Theatre Arts’ February production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” is in rehearsal.

“We didn’t know what we were going to get at all, but we had a really good turn out for auditions,” said director Merv Wingard, who has both acted and worked backstage on several OTA productions, as well as directed a reader’s theater version of “Death of a Salesman” in Tucson, Ariz.

“We had a tremendous variety of people, experienced and inexperienced, and we made a great selection.”

Running from this coming Friday — with a preview night on Thursday — to Feb. 24, “Death of a Salesman” performance times will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Pay-What-You-Will night is Thursday, Feb. 14; and Talk-Back Night is Thursday, Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $18 for the general public, $16 for OTA members and $12 for students with school identification card, and are available at the theatre box office from 1 to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays or online at www.Olympic

A classic drama of American theatre, the “Death of a Salesman” story revolves around Willy Loman, a failing salesman who cannot understand how he failed to win success and happiness.

Through a series of soul-searching revelations, we discover how his quest for the “American Dream” kept him blind to the people who truly loved him.

In his first major dramatic role, Joel Hoffman has been cast as Loman.

“It’s a big role right out of the box. I won’t say it’s not intimidating — it’s a lot of lines and it’s a lot of different colors,” Hoffman said.

“This is a tortured soul who goes in and out of his own head, so it’s very, very challenging. I’ve learned a lot already, and I’m going to learn more.”

Wingard said, “I was looking for somebody who could play a human being, who could play somebody that was real. Joel was able to get the kind of range of emotion we were looking for and at the same time portray himself as just a real person. The whole play is about real people, and that’s what we wanted.”

New to the stage are Kelsi Chambers playing Ms. Forsythe, Zach Mohlar playing Bernard, Karen Reeder playing The Woman (Willy’s extra-marital affair) and Alison Cobb as both Letta and Jenny.

“I feel pretty good about it,” said Chambers, who has worked on many OTA productions backstage, most recently as light board operator for Sylvia.

“I’m a little nervous, but it will be a nice change from being up in the ‘Bat Cave’ doing the lights,” she said. “I’m glad I get to work with this cast. All of them are very talented, so I feel lucky to have this one as my first show on stage.”

Said Reeder, “I just came and did one of those cold reads. I just thought it would be fun, and one of my friends kind of put me up to it. It’s fun trying to build character and work together. It’s a good team-building exercise.”

Mohlar, who pulls character and improvisation from his hobby of Dungeons & Dragons, said, “I’m afraid I might be typecast early as the nerdy type, but apparently I fit the bill.”

OTA regular Joe Schulz, last seen at OTA in “The Tin Woman,” plays Charley, and Jennifer Horton, who is enjoying her 20th performance on OTA’s stage after starting in hair and make up design and expanding into many other production positions, is playing Willy’s wife, “Linda.”

Horton, last seen on the OTA stage in “Sylvia,” said, “I’m really stoked that this play is the 20th.”

Michael Sickles, who saw his stage debut in “Sylvia” as three separate characters (both male and female) portrays Happy, Willy’s younger son.

“There’s something to learn from this play, which I really enjoy,” Sickles said. “I think it’s going to be really powerful. The energy is amazing.”

Both veterans of several community stages on the Olympic Peninsula, Mark Valentine is cast as Uncle Ben and Richard Stephens is cast as both Howard and Stanley.

“I really want everyone to see this show so that they will see and understand why it is an American classic, why it won the Pulitzer Prize, why it’s a landmark in American theatre,” Stephens said.

“I think that everyone can relate to this play because we’ve all had fathers, and fathers, like all of us, are flawed and make mistakes.”

Said Valentine, “This is in the cannon. This is a big hitter. Whenever a big play like this comes along I’m going to take a stab at it.”

Rounding off the cast with Biff, Willy’s older son, this production marks French-born Randy Powell’s first acting work as an American citizen.

For more information about the production, call the theater at 360-683-7326.

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