Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Death Of A Playwright.

As many of you know, reading Vanity Fair is one of my guilty pleasures. They have fascinating human interest stories. In every issue they focus on great artists, moguls, rich murder victims, or long ago celebrities. Those are the pieces I like.

I can hardly bear to read their political articles. The editor is inflicted with BDS so severe, I'm suprised he isn't in a hospice for it. But no one investigates on a personal level better than they do.

When I was a Theatre major in college, one my favorite playwrights was Arthur Miller, considered to be one of the best playwrights of the 20th century. Best known for "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible." He was also married once to Marilyn Monroe, you might recall.

His work was all about the moral issues we face and how we cope with them. Human fragility. So it came as quite a surprise to the author of the article that Miller had 4 children, not the three that had always been reported. The child that wasn't even mentioned in his 1997 biography, was Daniel Miller, born in 1966 with his wife Inge Morath. The child was never mentioned because it had down syndrome and was placed in an institution and almost completely ignored by Arthur Miller his whole life.

Daniel is now 41 and according to everyone interviewed that knows him, he is a lovely happy human being that touches everyone he meets in a positive way. Toward the end of Miller's life, he visited his son, who is living an independent life. Before Miller died, (in Feb. 2005) he changed his will to include this long forgotten child.

It's interesting to note, as the article does, that none of the work Miller did after this child was born rose to the genius of his previous work. A coincidence? I don't know. Sometimes the things we wish to forget and even manage to forget, changes us nonetheless. We may put it away in our of our minds, but the landscape of life shifts a bit and we end up walking down a slightly different road.

I worked on "Death of a Salesman" my freshman year as stage manager. I know the theme is focused on how obtaining wealth and "the American Dream" of success is the wrong dream for a man. But I found a deeper meaning. I thought, that like so many men, Willy (the main character), couldn't see the blessings right in front of him. His wife and his sons. He was so focused on how people liked him and how he was defined by his job, that he failed to see the things that really did matter.

I think it's ironic, isn't it? That Miller seemed to have that same problem. (although the play was written well before Daniel's birth) He thought of Daniel as a burden that he didn't want to acknowledge. When he finally does get to know Daniel, he seems to realize that this child was as deserving as the rest of his children. Maybe he realized too, that Daniel could have been the source of so many blessings for him.

Sometimes maybe the things we see as so hard and unbearable, should be embraced. Maybe there is so much more than the difficulties we see in front of us.