Leicester Drama Society’s production of Arthur Miller’s powerful drama Broken Glass opens on May 9th. To celebrate, here’s some things you might not know about one of America’s most famous, and controversial, playwrights.
* Miller was born into affluence, but his father lost everything in the Wall Street Crash and they were forced to move to Brooklyn
* Most famous fact of all: Miller was married to Norman Jean Baker, better known as Marilyn Monroe. When journalists asked him what Monroe would be doing between films, he replied “She will be my wife. That’s a full time job.” The marriage lasted less than five years – Monroe was dead less than two years later.
* Although he would never say as much publicly, his play After the Fall is almost certainly inspired by his marriage to Monroe. It is a painful, uncomfortable watch.
* Miller refused to co-operate with Senator McCarthy’s House of Un American Activities Committee and refused give the names of friends who had been communist party members. He was held in contempt of court. His play The Crucible, although ostensibly about the Salem witch trials, is inspired by this period of his life. Many of Miller’s plays concern the importance of your own name and your own dignity. The Crucible’s John Proctor chooses to die rather than sign his name on a false document.
* Miller’s daughter Rebecca is a noted writer and film director. Her husband has also gained something of a reputation in the arts – triple Oscar winning actor Daniel Day Lewis. He played John Proctor in the film version of The Crucible, which Miller himself adapted for the screen
* His first Broadway play, The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944) was a disaster and closed after four performances. But All My Sons (1947) was a great success, and Death of a Salesman (1949), written in a single day, brought him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and remains a key text in American theatre
* Broken Glass (1994) was one of his last plays, and the last to meet with critical success. Its title derives from Kristallnact or the Night of Broken Glass, the pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany that took place on November 9th 1938. The name comes from shards of broken glass that littered the street after synagogues, shops and homes were destroyed.
* Miller died on February 10th 2005 – exactly 56 years after Death of a Salesman premiered. This play, alongside the trio of The Crucible, All My Sons and A View From the Bridge remain some of the most performed plays in world drama and, in in the opinion of this writer and many others, some of the best plays of the twentieth century. They cement Miller’s legacy as a key playwright of the modern age.
Broken Glass, directed by Jane Towers, plays between 9th-14th May 2016