Writers, directors, actors and others in the arts community paid tribute Friday to one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century.
Arthur Miller, who stoked the American Dream with his unswerving portrayals of human frailties, at the age of 89.
Harold Pinter, another playwright renowned for his uncompromising views, called Miller “a great writer, a great playwright and a great man.”
While playwright Edward Albee said, “About a year ago, Arthur Miller paid me a great compliment. He said that my plays were necessary. I will go one step further and say that Arthur’s plays are essential. Arthur and I marched together several times to protest repressive governments. His work teaches us a lot about how to fight evil.”
Actor Kevin Spacey, said it was appearing in a high school production of Miller’s “All My Sons” that made him decide to become an actor.
“Arthur Miller continued to examine American values and moral decay with extraordinary structure and riveting dialogue — right to his last months,” Spacey said.
Actress Vanessa Redgrave called him “a great American hero.”
Todd Haimes, artistic director of the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City, said he produced six of Arthur Miller’s plays at the Roundabout, the last one six months ago when the theater produced “After the Fall.”
“It’s so rare that you get to work with a legend and he turns out to be as wonderful to work with as his plays are to read. He was incredible,” Haimes said. “He was very supportive of our work. What was unique about him, in addition to the obvious, is he liked young directors to take a crack at his great plays. As a result, there are a host of plays that are directed by artists who weren’t even alive when he wrote ’Death of a Salesman.”’
Brian Dennehy, who starred as Miller’s greatest achievement, Willy Loman, in a Broadway revival of “Death of a Salesman,” called the playwright “one of the great triumvirates of the American theater.
“He stretched himself out and lived his life as completely as anybody out there I’ve ever heard of. We enjoyed each other, we enjoyed work and working together on this project, thinking and talking about it, and talking about a lot of things. He made you feel that he wanted to hear what you had to say.”
Author Salman Rushdie, who worked with Miller at the PEN writers group, called the playwright a “genius.”
“He made plays with the grandeur and power of high tragedy, revealing what he called, in the opening stage directions of ’Death of a Salesman,’ the dream rising out of reality,” Rushdie said. “He was also a man of true moral stature, a rare quality in these degraded days.
“I was lucky enough to know him a little, to observe how lightly he wore his greatness, and to see the mischievous twinkle in his eye. I comfort myself with the thought that although the man has left us, the work is here to stay.”
Nicholas Hytner, director of Britain’s National Theatre, called Miller “the last of the great titans of the American stage” and said British audiences had embraced his work.
“In recent decades he has been more welcome on the London stage than in his native New York,” said Hytner, who directed the 1996 film adaptation of Miller’s play, “The Crucible.”
“We have felt more comfortable with the uncompromising morality of his world view than his compatriots. America felt rebuked by him. Over here, we relish the ferocity of his arguments with the way things are.”
Director Michael Attenborough, who worked with Miller on a London production of Miller’s play “Danger: Memory!” in the 1980s, said he was an “incredibly humble and incredibly funny” man as well as a great writer.
“He rolled into his characters a colossal amount of humanity,” Attenborough said. “He didn’t judge his characters. He put them into very difficult, agonizing situations, and like a toy, he wound them up and just let them run.”