I studied drama, and have always admired and been intrigued by Arthur Miller, the playwright and the man. Professor Christopher Bigsby of the University of East Anglia brought Miller’s life right back into the hall of Jewish Book Week, and enthralled me. I hadn’t realised how Miller had fallen out of favour with American drama critics, and that the power of just 1 paper, the new York Times, could make or break a career on the stage. Thankfully his work is universal. I didn’t live through the nightmare of McCarthyism, but a recent production of ‘The Crucible’ here at the Bristol Old Vic brought Salem, and the activities of the Un-American ‘Activities’ Committee, and other ill-doings and persecutions around the world, vividly to life….the third or fourth time I’ve seen it.
Bigsby spoke for just under an hour, and addressed the fundamental question of how importance his Jewishness was to Miller. It seems that his second wife, Inge Morath, lit a fuse under his exploration of the faith and the tragedy of the holocaust, and Bigsby illuminated for us that Miller returned to it several times, particularly in his later work. I come away not only wanting to read both of Christopher Bigsby’s volumes of his Miller biography, but also to see some of the Miller plays I have not yet seen, like ‘After The Fall’ and his final piece, ‘Finishing The Picture’.
JMW is a Bristol-based writer, filmmaker & anthropologist. His
documentary film, ‘Steadfast’, about 5 years spent with the Bedouin
tribes of Israel’s Negev Desert, will be released this month. His
website is www.sky-larking.com