State of Contemporary American Theater: Interview with Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller, one of the leading American playwrights of the 20th century, discusses the state of contemporary theater in the early 21st century. Miller died in 2005; this interview was taped in 2000.
Explore the process and cost of getting a production to Broadway. (Most likely, the cost has increased greatly since the time of this interview.) What types of plays are currently running? Which ones earn awards and financial success? What conclusions might be drawn about the state of contemporary theater from this information?
Invite a playwright to come into the classroom and talk about his or her work and the current state of theater.
Show with the segment The Importance of Regional Theater and discuss the role theater plays in the local and national culture and economy.
Arthur Miller (1915-2005) is one of America’s most esteemed playwrights. Miller was born in New York City. His father lost his business during the Great Depression, an event that made a huge impression on Miller, perhaps planting the seed for what would become a recurring theme in his works—disillusion with “the American dream.”
Miller started write plays as a student at the University of Michigan, winning student awards for his works. In 1944, just four years after he graduated, his play The Man Who Had All the Luck premiered on Broadway. But it was flop, lasting only four performances. However, in 1947, his play All My Sons was successful on Broadway.
During his life Miller wrote plays, books, novels, nonfiction, and an autobiography, but his most famous work was the play “Death of a Salesman,” which premiered on Broadway in 1949. Miller won a Pulitzer Prize for drama as a result, and the lead character Willy Loman has become an American stage icon.
Other works by Miller include The Crucible. On the surface portraying the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1690s, it is considered a parable of the anti-communist “witch hunts” of the 1950s led by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.