New York City
In the spring of 1983, in a groundbreaking act of cross-cultural collaboration, Arthur Miller accepted an invitation to direct his play Death of a Salesman with an all-Chinese cast at the Beijing People’s Art Theatre despite not speaking a word of Mandarin. The production was a resounding success due, in no small part, to the multilingual talents of renowned Chinese actor Ying Ruocheng (Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor) who translated the text and played Willy Loman.
This extraordinary encounter, which Miller detailed in his memoir Salesman in Beijing, is the inspiration for Salesman之死, which centers on Shen Huihui, a young university professor, who is summoned to the theater for a special task: to interpret for Arthur Miller, who will soon arrive to direct his iconic play – in Mandarin. Meanwhile, the Chinese ensemble, newly out of the Cultural Revolution, has never met “a salesman.” Will they be able to find common ground? Mostly based on true events, Salesman之死 is a multilingual tale of cultural confusion, impossible translation, and unexpected encounters amid the chaos of theater making.