Arthur Miller, 1915-2005

I only met Miller on a few occasions, when he was always cordial and quiet; like many theater people, he tended to approach critics with caution. What made our contact interesting was the range of people through whom I met him: the playwrights Jean-Claude van Itallie and John Guare, the poet and librettist Arnold Weinstein, the composer Stanley Silverman, the director-choreographer Martha Clarke. These were all artists with whose work, one would have imagined, Arthur Miller's sensibility would find little common ground. Yet there they were: friends, respected colleagues, neighbors and even occasional collaborators. (Silverman wrote the score for Miller's one full-fledged attempt at musical theater, Up from Paradise. Weinstein shared with Miller the writing of the libretto for William Bolcom's opera of A View from the Bridge—for the Met production of which Miller, not Weinstein, created the text for an additional aria.) A man is known by the company he keeps; Arthur Miller's taste in company, over a long life, was far-ranging and not overly judgmental. Pursued by the private demons that brought his family situation into play after play, he pulled his social canvas as wide as it could go. The two phenomena—the inner drive and the outward exploration—make a dialectic that has kept his early plays popular, and is more than likely to make us think differently of those that followed in time to come.

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