Who would write a prequel or sequel to one of preeminent American playwright Arthur Miller’s works? Who would presume to tackle the creative intricacies of Death of a Salesman, A View From the Bridge . . . or any of Mr. Miller’s classic works? Answer: Dr. Jane Dominik’s English 1B students, that’s who.
Delta College students Ashley Rae Hardacre, Hector Madrigal, Megan Hardin, Kaci Hurst, Celida Navarro, and Leandra Dominguez had their works published in a teaching article in the international Arthur Miller Journal. Due to article length, Victoria Stevens’ and Persephone Mahler’s fine works were not included in the final publication. However, as part of the submitted article, these Delta students were also honored at a recent President’s Office reception at the college.
With English 1B being an online class, the reception was actually the first time Dr. Dominik met some of these students in person. “That these talented Delta College students’ creative works are published in an international journal for scholars and professors is quite an accomplishment. That our community college students’ creative-academic coursework has been published in The Arthur Miller Journal is an honor.”
Dr. Dominik has written on the works of Arthur Miller for more than twenty years. She founded the Arthur Miller Society Newsletter, a precursor to The Arthur Miller Journal, founded and edited by Stephen Marino. She also served as the Society’s Vice President and President, and currently serves on its Board.
Years ago, Dominik began to notice that the writing of students in her creative writing courses was improving more quickly than those in standard composition courses. She decided to take a sabbatical to explore creativity and creative thinking. Upon her return, she incorporated creative assignments into her composition courses. Dominik noticed that students responded with greater interest and enthusiasm on assignments that required the same skills and knowledge of conventional assignments.
With a keen interest in originality and Arthur Miller, one of the assignments in her English 1B course requires students to read four Miller plays and prepare a prequel or sequel to one of the plays. “Their excellent work reveals a solid and clear understanding of the plays, plots, characters, themes, dialogue, and styles,” beamed Dominik.
Dr. Dominik took it a step further. She thought it would be a nice fit to write and submit a teaching article for The Arthur Miller Journal. She reviewed her students’ assignments for three semesters and selected two works for each of the four plays. “It was not an easy choice given the quality of so many of the students’ submissions,” added Dominik.
Ashley Rae Hardacre wrote a sequel to Miller’s All My Sons that not only developed its tragedy but accounted for a weakness in Miller’s writing – a letter that a character has kept to herself for more than three years even though it has meant that her own father has been sitting in prison falsely accused. When Dr. Dominik contacted Ashley a few months later to request permission to include her work in the article, unsolicited, Ashley offered a thoughtful perspective of her choices and decisions in writing the sequel, so Dr. Dominik included that in the article as well.
Hector Madrigal took on the challenge of writing a prequel to All My Sons; prequels are more difficult to write. In his scenes, he shows Joe Keller setting up his partner to ship out faulty airplane parts which leads to his partner’s imprisonment.
Megan Hardin’s sequel for Death of a Salesman includes continued character development for Biff, Willy Loman’s son. Biff follows in his father’s footsteps of infidelity and sacrificial suicide in order to provide his brother with the opportunity to pursue his dreams.
Kaci Hurst’s sequel for Death of a Salesman continues Miller’s play with Biff on a ranch and Happy following in their father’s footsteps of delusion and blame for his own economic failings.
Celida Navarro created a happier ending to A View from the Bridge in which Catherine marries Rodolpho, an illegal immigrant, after her uncle dies in a fight with Rodolpho’s brother. The fight was precipitated by Eddie reporting the illegal immigrants in his attempts to prevent the marriage.
Leandra Dominguez also wrote a sequel to A View from the Bridge, but her version reversed the young couple’s ending. Rodolpho admits to Catherine that at first he was interested in her so that he could stay in America. Even though he has fallen in love with Catherine, she rejects him and regrets her lack of loyalty to her uncle who was trying to protect her.
The article published in the Journal was unusually long for one on teaching, so, unfortunately, two additional scenes, those for Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People, were cut by editors due to space.
Victoria A. Stevens wrote a very effective sequel to An Enemy of the People in which the citizens who ignore Dr. Stockmann’s evaluation of their town’s poisonous water supply begin to die. His brother, the mayor, who has also ostracized the doctor because of his own greed, commits suicide. Dr. Stockmann agrees to become the new mayor to solve the problem.
Persephone Mahler also wrote a sequel to An Enemy of the People in which Dr. Stockmann, whose livelihood and family have suffered deeply, remains bitter even when he is asked for help as the townspeople begin to die. However, when the town leaders appeal to him further and he learns that his brother, the mayor, has died from the poisonous waters, he agrees to help.
Dr. Dominik has continued to use this creative assignment, as well as other original approaches, to great effectiveness. “I wish I could publish more scenes written since the article was submitted. This has been a wonderful opportunity for our Delta College students and for the promotion of creative approaches in standard college courses. I look forward to more work like this from our talented students.”
Congratulations, Dr. Dominik, and to the imaginations of your students!