Magazine article American Theatre

Rebecca Miller: Director with a Painter's Eye

Magazine article American Theatre

Rebecca Miller: Director with a Painter's Eye

Article excerpt

It would be difficult, and perhaps just a little bit disingenuous, to begin any discussion of Rebecca Miller's work without at least a nod to her pedigree. As the daughter of photographer Inge Morath and playwright Arthur Miller, she was genetically predisposed for a career in the arts, either plastic or performing. As it happens, she has one career in each.

Attracted first to painting and sculpture, Rebecca Miller only began acting at the behest of superagent Sam Cohn. She won a lead in the 1988 NBC miniseries, The Murder of Mary Phagan, and went on to work in film--in Mike Nichols's Regarding Henry and Carroll Ballard's Wind--and on stage in Peter Brook's The Cherry Orchard. She found the collaborative aspect of acting a fine antidote to the loneliness of painting, but still worried about what she considered "the passivity of the position of the actor." Feeling that actors were not enough in control, she ventured into directing films, where she found success with her first effort, a 30-minute short called Florence. The logical next step was directing for the stage.

David White, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati artistic director, saw Florence, called Miller and asked her to direct her father's After the Fall to open the theatre's 1992-93 season. Miller's original impulse, and the advice of a lot of her friends and colleagues, was to turn down the ETC offer. "I have always shied away from using the family name. I've wanted my work to speak for itself. So I really took this job in spite of the connection, not because of it."

Although the play was part of the proposal White laid before her, Miller said that if she had been given the choice to direct any of her father's work, it would have come down to The Crucible or After the Fall.

"Now I understand that this piece was the most logical choice for me because it's the most openly surreal of his works. …

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