Arthur Miller’s classic ‘Death of a Salesman’ comes to Addis

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The first Amahric production of ‘Death of a Salesman’, a play written by one of America’s leading playwrights Arthur Miller (1915-2005) opened at the Ethiopian National Theatre Sunday, almost seventy years after the original American production. The play, the story of the final years of a failed traveling salesman, Willy Loman that won the author a Pulitzer Prize carried an Amahric title ‘የአባወራ ጉዞ’ (Ye Abawera Guzo).

Directed by the veteran producer and actor Tekle Desta, the success of the production was largely due to Alemayehu Gebrehiwot, who both translated the text into Amharic and also played Howard Wagner, one of the important supporting characters of the play. Alemyaheu, one of the earliest Addis Ababa University Theatre Arts graduates, already translated Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan and adapted Tewfiq al Hakim’s play.

The powerful cast includes Tesfaye Gebrehana as Willie Loman, Genet Asefa as Linda, Biruk Minase as Biff, and Henok Berihun as Happy. Other players included Mikael Tamre, Tigist Bayu, Surafel Teka, Asaye Genene, and Roza Ayanew,

The Amharic production of a classic American tragedy was part of a series of the U.S. Embassy’s collaboration with Ethiopian artists to host works by American authors for Ethiopian audiences, Alemayehu Gebrehiwot told Ethiopia Observer. The play will be presented to high school and college students and teachers in Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar, Dessie, Debre Berhan, Jimma, and Hawassa, he said.

The staging of a play by a celebrated American playwright for the Ethiopian audience is part of a tradition of translating and adapting Western theaters. Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin’s translations of Shakespearean classics, Othello and Hamlet, Mengistu Lemma’s adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, Chekhov’s The Bear, were successful in the 70s and 80s. In the ensuing years, Aseffa Gebre-Mariyam’s rendition of Gogol’s The Inspector General, Getachew Tarekegn’s Albert Camus’s Caligula, Manyazewal Endeshaw’s adaptions of Harold Pinter’s The Collection and Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story were presented on the Ethiopian stages over the years with varying degrees of success.

(Image, courtesy of the US Embassy.)

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