That Championship Season

by Jason Miller

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Critical Context

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Jason Miller wrote little for the theater since he spent more time as an actor and a poet than as a playwright. Accordingly, he attained his reputation in drama nearly exclusively from the acclaim given to That Championship Season, his second full-length play, which won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, several Tony Awards, and the 1973 Pulitzer Prize in drama.

Miller’s themes found in the play can be traced closely to his Roman Catholic background and education (the Jesuit-affiliated University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.), his predilection for athletics and sports, and his life in the kind of small mining town featured in the drama. His first but unsuccessful full-length play, Nobody Hears a Broken Drum (pr. 1970, pb. 1971), also deals with a Pennsylvania coal town, this time set in the nineteenth century.

That Championship Season follows in the tradition of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (pr., pb. 1949) since both works are about individuals who refuse to examine the moral bankruptcy of their lives and their perverted values of competition and success. Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (pr., pb. 1946) is also similar in its theme about the false promises of a pipe dream that motivates individuals and prevents them from seeing themselves as they really are. In the same vein, Jason Miller’s play calls on the strip-all, tell-all realist approaches by playwrights Paddy Chayefsky, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Henrik Ibsen, and Mart Crowley.

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Critical Overview