Signature Stories: Volume 14 - Page 16

WHAT MILLER IS GETTING AT IS THAT THERE IS HUMANITY IN ALL OF US, AND IF WE CAN FIND THAT HUMANITY, THEN THE WORLD HAS A CHANCE. only the characters in the play but also for us as an audience. Watching this, I think we are able to project ourselves back to that time and think about what we would have done in that situation, but also, what would we do if we’re sitting on the subway car and someone starts attacking someone? What is our personal responsibility at that moment to help someone that is in need? Is it our responsibility to step in and do what is right, or what we think would be right? In the play, Miller poses big ethical questions that are being posed to the United States right now. At what point does personal responsibility add up to collective responsibility and then a national response to what we would view as an international crisis? Incident at Vichy prompts contemplation on all of these issues. In some ways, I think Miller was enacting what was inflicted upon his own artistic community when the [House Un-American Activities Committee] did their own round-up and Miller’s dear friend and collaborator Elia Kazan named names, which created such a schism. A few years later Miller would apply for a passport renewal and be called before the same committee and then [held in contempt of Congress] for refusing to name names. It was an atrocious time in American history. Miller wrote Incident at Vichy just a few years after those events and it’s something that I think he would battle all his life. I think Miller often put himself forward as someone who was trying to protect the human voice of truth. In Incident at Vichy, what Miller is getting at is that there is humanity in all of us, and if we can find that humanity, then the world has a chance. S: This will be your third time directing at Signature – what are you looking forward to in your return to the Center? Arthur Miller. 15 MW: I’d say fifth time – I count The Orphans’ Home Cycle as three productions, since it was nine hours long! I love working at Signature. I’ve admired this company for all twenty-five years that it’s been in existence. It’s an amazing thing that Jim Houghton has done, creating this company and doing it around the idea that a theatre can take an audience on a journey through the singular voice of a great writer. But I also just love the gathering, the community, how the building was designed and how it functions – along with Incident at Vichy, Bill Rauch will be here directing Naomi Wallace’s play. It’s a thriving, lively place in which an artist can come to work every day. And yes, you’re focused on your own piece, but then conversations you might have with other directors and other actors begin to open up a thought or an idea that may illuminate a new path in the play where you may have perhaps hit a wall. I feel really supported and of great value here. Jim has gone out of his way to make a home for me – it’s the first piece I’m doing here that’s not by Horton Foote, so I’ll probably miss Horton from time to time, but Horton loved Miller and so I’m really fortunate to be doing this project. It’s great to be here. n REMEMBERING Incident at Vichy will mark the first Arthur Miller play to be produced at Signature since his 1997-98 Season. In the weeks leading up to the Centennial of Miller’s birth, Founding Artistic Director James Houghton shared some of his memories from that season, and the legacy Miller left behind. MILLER Signature: How did the Arthur Miller season begin at Signature? James Houghton: We were building a theatre at the time, what would end up being our home for the next 15 years – the Peter Norton Space. We basically had to make a theatre in six to eight weeks in order to be ready in time for the first show of the Arthur Miller season, The American Clock. As we went into the groundbreaking, Arthur, the architect Mitchell Kurtz, and I did a press conference in the raw space, which was literally two months before we started performances...and Arthur was just completely game. We were in tech rehearsal and there was this incredible set that E. David Cosier had designed for us, but if you had flipped the camera around to the actors’ perspective…there was no auditorium. We were that tight up against it. But it ended up being this wonderful way to open the Arthur Miller season. We got to the finish line and it was really exciting. S: Why did Incident at Vichy feel like the right play to do as the first of Arthur’s to be produced at the Center? JH: I had a remarkable time with Arthur when we put our season together – and one of the plays we initially talked about was Incident a