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MILLER TIME

 

Just finished a run as Danforth in Stray Dog’s production of THE CRUCIBLE. Good run, big, attentive crowds over the (uncut) 3 hour 15 minute production. Experienced great fatigue and boredom as I sat back stage for the first two acts, only to wake up with a start when I came on as the Deputy Governor and basically took over the stage, talking near non stop, for the last hour and a half.

I think my focus on the show was a little skewed, though. Rather than equating it in my mind with the McCarthy witch hunts or the Octavio Cortez witch hunts, I think I think I thought of nothing but Salem, and more precisely, about the theatricality of this great script. Hard rehearsals, but good backstage with a big, talented crew of actors.

Its the third Miller script I’ve able to work on. First was back in the early days of my time in theatre in St. Louis. For the West End Players, with many years under their belt even then, ensconced in a church basement in the CWE. They asked me to direct DEATH OF A SALESMAN, and I jumped at it, knowing some of it from the original film, but always having had a feeling about it, about its drama and power.

Had a good time directing it, on a long, narrow proscenium staging area, with willing actors and a secret weapon - the soundtrack for it. I used songs from Willie Nelson’s STARDUST album, songs from the era when the play was created - Blue Skies for the absurd dreams of Willie and the western wanderlust of Biff, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore for their breakdown in the heart of New York City and at home, Someone To Watch Over Me for the close.

A great story about Miller in the HBO documentary about him made by his daughter: Opening night of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, original production on Broadway. At curtain, the audience just sat, stunned, silent. Finally someone said something to the person next to him. Someone stirred. And he audience stood, started clapping, and they never stopped

Then just a couple years ago, connected with Clayton Community Theatre to direct A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE. That’s a complex script, and just as CRUCIBLE is driven by outrage about McCarthy, this play is soaked with madness about Marilyn.

Personally, the play will haunt me. My son Travis died of a drug overdose during tech week of the show. I had to take a night off, but I was helped by the fact that I could concentrate on something else for a few hours in the last prep for the show.

Happy Endings, I guess, show went very well, another talented, committed troupe of actors, and appreciative audiences. And at the Community Theatre Awards (for whatever they’re worth, whatever any competitive “award” in an artistic medium is worth) I was given Best Director, and Isaiah DiLorenzo who played the lead, won Best Actor.

Challenging as the work is, working on a Master like Miller is a such a pleasure. I think I realized this when I was acting in SATE’s OF MICE AND MEN, that being in a classic like this is like driving a brand new Cadillac. You really don't have to do a whole lot - just nudge the wheel back and forth a little bit whenever you feel like it.

 


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Revised: October, 2007
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