COFAP opens 2016 with riveting ‘All My Sons’

February 11, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

The elaborate set design is one of the many highlights of "All My Sons," which opens Friday in Ethington Theatre.

The elaborate set design is one of the many highlights of “All My Sons,” which opens Friday in Ethington Theatre.

Story by Janie Magruder
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau

The words Claude Pensis uses to describe the College of Fine Arts and Production’s first main stage play of 2016, which opens this weekend in Grand Canyon University’s Ethington Theatre, may be worth the price of admission ($12 and under) alone.

Joe Keller (left, played by Scott Campbell) shares a moment with Frank Lubey, played by Jeremiah Byrne.

Joe Keller (left, played by Scott Campbell) shares a moment with Frank Lubey, played by Jeremiah Byrne.

“Important American drama.” “House of cards.” “Modern morality play.”

Not intriguing enough? “All My Sons” was written in 1947 by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller, a giant of the 20th-century American theatre who also penned “Death of a Salesman,” “The Crucible” and “The Misfits.”

Based on a true story of an airplane manufacturer who conspired during World War II to sell defective engines to the U.S. military, “All My Sons” is the story of Joe Keller, the head of seemingly the ideal American family. He has a devoted wife, Kate, and two sons, the eldest missing in action in the war.

Keller was exonerated of charges that he knowingly shipped damaged parts, which triggered air catastrophes resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots. Of course, the truth comes out, as it always does, and Joe Keller’s truth is no exception.

The first of six performances of “All My Sons” is at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Ethington Theatre. Ticket information and more details are here.

“Joe Keller is a man who makes a horrible choice and builds his life on that horrible choice,” said Pensis, COFAP’s dean and the show’s director. “He ultimately makes an earth-shattering decision that resonates in a number of ways.”

If you go

What: Opening weekend of “All My Sons,” by Arthur Miller, presented by GCU’s College of Fine Arts and Production

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Feb. 19-20, and 2 p.m. Sunday, and Feb. 21

Where: Ethington Theatre

Tickets: Click here or call the box office at (602) 639-8880.

Pensis noted there are parallels between Keller and Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” in that Keller wonders in “a plaintive cry” at the play’s end what he has done that is so wrong. “And he honestly doesn’t know, which is so frightening to me,” he said. “There’s no Christian or moral framework in his worldview, that we know of. He has created a house of cards, and what’s fascinating is watching it all come tumbling down.”

By Ethington standards, the play has a small cast, just eight main parts for students, plus six others as understudies. An added plus: The role of the neighborhood boy, Bert, is being shared by John Cotoia, 11, and his brother Nicholas, 10, sons of John Cotoia, a GCU manager of faculty training and development.

The role of Joe Keller is being played by Scott Campbell, a GCU staffer and COFAP alumnus who has guest-directed plays for COFAP. Pensis said the experience of being on stage with Campbell will benefit students, as will their exposure to Miller’s straightforward, clean storytelling:

“Each of the actors is equally important in terms of what they contribute, and even though some of the roles are smaller, everything they see, do, the way they stand, add to the story.”

Natalie Ward (center) said the role of Kate Keller is a new experience for her.

Natalie Ward (center) said the role of Kate Keller is a new experience for her.

GCU sophomore Jamie Coblentz, a Miller fan from way back, will play Ann Deever, who has been involved with both of Keller’s sons. Coblentz is more accustomed to playing the mother, not the ingénue.

“I’ve never played a romantic lead in my life and now this,” Coblentz said. “When we have a department as talented as we are, I didn’t think I would get in.”

Senior Natalie Ward said she wasn’t expecting to be cast as Kate Keller, Joe’s wife. But as the eldest of seven children in her family — and a military family at that — Ward has a lot to work with. Her own mother is fiercely protective of her children, as is Kate, but the similarities between the two end there, Ward said.

“Kate talks about having raised her kids to have principles, but what she’s really saying is, ‘Here, you need to get a job and settle down and forget about principles,’” Ward said.

“The morality is very convoluted, and each character has a different sense of morality and the lengths he or she will go to stay in that frame of morality and why he or she deems it appropriate.”

Contact Janie Magruder at (602) 639-8018 or

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