...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

What Arthur Miller brings to mind
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Feb. 12 - Stu's birthday.

The front page story today reports the loss of another major talent of the 20th century, Arthur Miller. After losing Ossie Davis last week I'd like to request a halt for a while, okay? I know, these people were old and people die but damn.

Over on Laura Lippman's Memory Project blog (click above on "Laura's blog"), she asks folks to think back over their - well often their childhoods - and respond with memories of what happened. Currently, she was asking about Valentine's Day, about which I have no interesting memories. But on seeing the story on Miller, I was remembering, and appreciating my youth, the family I came from, the city I lived in.

I grew up in Hartford, not a very exciting place. I always have said that Connecticut was a good place to be from. But I grew up with parents who appreciated what we think of as "the arts"; I grew up in a house with music (big band jazz, classical, show tunes and great great singers - Fitzgerald and Horne, Belafonte and Vaughan) and books (mostly library books). We went to museums as treats (I thought it was cool when I learned that my hometown houses the first public museum in America, the Wadsworth Atheneum. Now that's a worthy distinction). Visits to New York City were cool things; yeah, we went to the Rainbow Room and I had my Shirley Temple, and I do recall going to Radio City, but you know what was REALLY fun? The Museum of Modern ART. It's still my favorite of all the museums I've been to (my dream is that I'll get to the Netherlands and finally get my fill of Van Gogh). We went to see some Broadway shows - I don't recall too many but a few - and the ballet. I first saw Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" as a ballet, not a play.

When I was a kid, the Hartford Stage Company opened. And bless them forever, for they had a policy of having kid ushers. AT least once each season, I went down to "the stage company" and ushered. And got to see the play for free. It was the cinchiest job I ever had. There weren't but like 100 seats in the theater; there wasn't a patron who couldn't find a seat; especially since most were season ticket holders so they hardly needed ushing. My parents had season tickets as I recall, at least for a while; this means I really was young when I did this, as my folks split up when I was 12. And I remember my mother storming home one night; she was decided NOT a fan of Samuel Beckett. Looking at the website, it looks like I was there for the 64-65 season for that was when they did "The Tempest" that I remember - forty years later, folks - and the 65-66 season for I recall "Major Barbara", then later, I see "The Fantasticks" listed - the only time I ever saw that. The 67-68 season brought "A View from the Bridge". and 68-69 "The Rose Tattoo". I don't recall whether I paid my way or ushered but at least for the first few, I'm guessing it was a freebie. In September, 1970, I headed off to college.

And even THEN, theater was something that mattered, from being in a couple plays (we adapted the trial transcript of the "Chicago 7" trial for a play. Can you see me as a BITCH prosecutor? Yeah, yeah, pipe down. My college was associated with the Eugene O'Neill Theater Institute. O'Neill spent many unhappy years in New Londong, Connecticut. And the city wasn't thrilled about admitting it either. While I was in college, they FINALLY named a street after him; appropriately, at least at that time, it was a long street, but in a "bad" part of town, full of litter and unkempt and I think along the river which was not a pleasant place to be in the early 70s. And during a couple of those years, something called the American Film Theatre created a number of cheap (to attend, mind you) plays on film which my friend Edie and went to, for 2 bucks each. "A Delicate Balance" by Albee, one of my mom's favorite playwrights, and a version of "The Iceman Cometh" with Lee Marvin as Hickey, and Pinter's…."The Homecoming" (sorry, but HAD to pause). And oh. My. God. Zero Mostel in Ionesco's "Rhinoceros". We didn't get to see all of them - it was like a Monday afternoon gig, but well worth the shlep to wherever we went.

I'm still a fan of American plays from the holy grouping of Williams, O'Neill and Albee and Miller. I guess I like angst. And I know there are brilliant talents out there now, honest, just because I don't get to the theater any more. And I know those 4 men weren't IT, but they form a backbone for me of what's to like about drama.

So anyway, Arthur Miller. If he never wrote another play, he wrote "The Crucible." If he never wrote another play, he wrote one of the single best dramatic lines in all of literature: "Attention must be paid."

So let's pay attention. Me? I'm going to reread "The Crucible" and wish I'd seen the Yves Montand/Simon Signoret version (yes, I know it's available on film, I'm talking LIVE). Yves Montand….ah, that's for another blog.

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