Magazine article The New Yorker

Cold Read

Magazine article The New Yorker

Cold Read

Article excerpt

COLD READ

Ever since Winter Miller was a teen-ager, she has cherished an unusual alternative-career fantasy. "If I could choose a different profession, it would be to be an abortion provider," she said the other day. "I would really, truly love to offer that service to people." Miller, who is forty-two, did not follow a medical path. Instead, she became a playwright; the Public Theatre produced Miller's play "In Darfur," which was set in a refugee camp. Lately, she has been developing "Spare Rib," a non-Aristotelian, nonlinear, quasicomic drama about abortion. Last month, Ellen McLaughlin, the actor and writer, who first encountered Miller's work while judging submissions for a Shakespeare's Sister Fellowship, enlisted Kathleen Chalfant, the actor, to host a reading at her house in Brooklyn Heights. Eight Broadway and Off Broadway professionals gathered in Chalfant's front parlor to bring the play to life.

"I did have a nightmare about this, in which everyone was naked except me," Miller told the guests. She was dressed in navy-blue pants and a navy-blue shirt, and has a shock of platinum hair.

"Why is that a nightmare?" Kathryn Grody, the writer and actor, asked silkily.

"I don't know--it wasn't," Miller said. "But here you all are, in your clothes!"

"So far," Nadia Bowers, the actor, purred.

Among the readers: Kellie Overbey, currently appearing in "Dada Woof Papa Hot," at Lincoln Center, who was wearing sparkly cat's-eye glasses; Dael Orlandersmith, the Pulitzer Prize nominee and actor, perched on a kitchen stool; Eisa Davis, another Pulitzer nominee--different year--and performer, sinking into an armchair. "I thought this was an intervention for Winter," Samantha Bee, the comedian and writer, who was there to watch, joked. One Corky Miller introduced herself as Miller's mother. "Thank you!" someone shouted. "It was nothing ," Miller senior said. "Roe v. Wade! Roe v. Wade!" Miller chanted. Her mother took her on marches from an early age.

"This play--if you want to laugh, laugh," Miller said. "And if you feel grossed out, be grossed out. Be just as you are." The reading began--a kind of Dadaist consciousness-raising mashup. There was laughter when Overbey delivered a monologue in the voice of a bossy unborn fetus: "I want to speak freely, but I want you to shut the fuck up when you don't say what I want you to say. …

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