Famed American playwright Arthur Miller is in Minneapolis this week preparing for the world premiere of his latest play at the Guthrie Theater. Miller is best known for his plays Death of a Salesman and The Crucible - this is the first time he's premiered a play in Minnesota. Resurrection Blues is Miller's first attempt at a satirical play.
Resurrection Blues is set in an unnamed South American country. A young man heralded as a messiah is gathering support from the downtrodden masses. The country's dictator captures the man and decides to crucify him. It's an effort to re-establish control of the country.
Then the dictator realizes he can make a hefty profit by selling the broadcast rights to the crucifixion. In a news conference with the Twin Cities media, Arthur Miller said the play examines the commercialization of everything in today's society, including life. It also criticizes the media's lack of ethics and intelligence.
"That's one of the big problems with the media, the reduction of almost everything to pablum. And certain things can't be reduced to pablum without destroying them," said Miller.
While this is the first Arthur Miller play to premiere at the Guthrie, Miller has a long history with the company. Death of a Salesman was the last show in the Guthrie's first season in 1963. Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy performed the lead roles. Miller flew to Minneapolis to meet with Sir Tyrone Guthrie for the production.
Now almost 40 years later Miller is back for the premiere of Resurrection Blues. Miller said he chose the Guthrie because of the quality of audiences in Minnesota. He said the idea of premiering a play on Broadway is outdated.
"Broadway doesn't originate anything anymore," said Miller. "It used to be the opposite - that the Broadway producer was the originator of the American theater. That's gone now. You can't find a producer who will produce a straight play without having seen it somewhere else."
"The Broadway producer was the originator of the American theater. That's gone now. You can't find a producer who will produce a straight play without having seen it somewhere else."
- Arthur Miller
Native Minnesotan David Esbjornsen is directing Resurrection Blues. Last year he directed Patrick Stewart and Mercedes Reuhl in the Guthrie's production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Esbjornsen enjoys directing plays in Minnesota because it allows him to leave the distractions of the New York theater scene behind.
"It's always scary to put on a new play because there are so many pit-falls to overcome and challenges to meet," said Esbjornsen. "But when you're in an environment like the Guthrie Theater the perspective is in the right place - you're able to focus on the things that matter."
At 86, Arthur Miller has led a long and successful writing career. His plays are often tragic, featuring men disillusioned by the world or regretful of how they've lived. But in Resurrection Blues Miller tries his hand at satire. What might be a tragedy is infused with humor. In some ways he is still optimistic about the future.
"We have a terrific chance to do wonders," Miller said. "I still have this crazy American belief that everything is possible. It gets more and more difficult to sustain that belief, but I'm not ready to give it up."
Miller is only in town for the week - he will return for the play's final rehearsals. Previews of Resurrection Blues begin Aug. 3. The play opens Aug. 9 and runs through Sept. 8.More from MPR