Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Arthur Miller: “Playwriting is Auditory Art, the Sound of Language”

A Westport audience Thursday night had the rare treat of hearing Arthur Miller, one of the greatest playwrights of our time, talk about himself, his work, and his views on the contemporary arts scene.
The Malloy Lecture in the Arts featured a conversation between Miller, who turned 88 last month, and friend and fellow playwright Tom Cole.


Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller (r.) listens as friend and fellow playwright Tom Cole addresses the audience Thursday night at Saugatuck Elementary School. WestportNow.com photo

The lecture at Saugatuck Elementary School was presented by the Westport Public Library in cooperation with the Westport Arts Center. Tickets for the event sold out almost as soon as it was announced.
For those unable to be there, WestportNow presents some excerpts of Arthur Miller talking about Arthur Miller.
*    What motivates him and how he does it: “A feeling that is intolerable until it is expressed.”
* Playwriting is “acting without embarrassment.”  He does it because “playwriting was a way to speak to people.  It is a mix of journalism and art.”
* He said he “thinks in terms of scenes” and called playwriting “auditory art, the sound of language.”  He contrasted it to novels, calling them “visual art.” 
*      He characterized playwrights of the 30s, 40s and 50s as “artists who were saying something, not just entertaining.”  Regarding today’s theater, he said, “It’s money, and it’s a pity.”
*      Regarding “The Crucible,” he characterized the dynamic as “paranoid terror” and said that “it’s probably going to happen time after time.”
*      On common themes, he said, “There is one human race, our habits are different, but if you dig a little, you find common lives.”
*      On people, he said, “People prefer the myth they have to anything.”
*      On critics, he said, “The mood of the critic is vital to the viability of the play.”  He lamented the fact that there are fewer critics today than when he began years ago.
*      He is currently working on a play called “Finishing the Picture” and read a passage from the play.
*      He criticized politicians, saying that “once in office, they seem to forget the arts in favor of the bottom line.”  He pointed out that “in fact, politicians create the bottom line,” suggesting that politicians have the ability to make arts’ funding part of their priorities.

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