- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 24, 2001

THE WASHINGTON TIMES Arthur Miller, one of the country's most prolific and best-known playwrights, will discuss the role of politicians as actors when he presents the National Endowment for the Humanities' 30th Jefferson Lecture on Monday night in the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall.

The title of the lecture, "Politics and the Art of Acting," refers to both past and present officeholders, he says in a brief telephone interview from his office in New York.

"It's a look at various political people — the main players. Democrats and Republicans both," he says.

"Some people might think it controversial," he replies in answer to a question about what sort of reaction he expects.

The tack isn't unusual for him, he notes. "All my work has been involved with the times in which I live. This is looking at [politicians] as performers. It includes everybody. It's just a general view of life now as it affects the body politic."

The 85-year-old playwright, who lives in Connecticut, began his career as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. His best-known plays include "All My Sons," "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible" and touch on the problem of an individual in society confronting unfeeling or unjust authority.

NEH Chairman William Ferris asks Mr. Miller what he regards as the artist's role in political life in the current issue of Humanities, the NEH magazine.

"I would hope that he would just be a good — if I may use that corny old phrase — a good citizen," Mr. Miller replies. "I wouldn't lay it down as a rule that an artist has to do anything he doesn't feel like doing, but sometimes there are issues. For example, censorship is of immediate importance to us."

Mr. Miller's most recent work, a collection of essays titled "Echoes Down the Corridor," was published last year.

"I'm working on a play right now," he says, adding that he is always reluctant to talk about the subject in advance. "I hope to have it ready in the immediate future."

His last Broadway play, "A Ride Down Mount Morgan," first performed in 1991, is being adapted for film and will be directed by Czech-born director Milos Forman, perhaps best known for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

"The next thing on Broadway will be a new production of 'The Crucible,' to be done next January, with Liam Neeson and directed by Sir Richard Eyre," Mr. Miller says.

The entire Miller family is involved in artistic ventures of one kind or another. Mr. Miller's wife is photographer Inge Morath, and the two have collaborated together on three books of photographs. Their daughter, Rebecca Miller, is author of a forthcoming book of short stories and is directing three of them for television.

The Jefferson Lecture, which comes with a $10,000 honorarium, traditionally is given by outstanding men and women in the field of the humanities who have contributed to public life. The lecturer is chosen by a 26-member advisory board.

Monday's event, which is free and open to the public, takes place at 7:30 p.m. Afterward, a reception will be held in the Kennedy Center Atrium, F Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW. For information, call 202/606-8446, or call up the Web site [email protected]

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