Department of Theatre & Drama Celebrates Centennial and Arthur Miller Centenary
In the fall of 1915, the first for-credit course in play production was offered to students at the University of Michigan, making U-M the first university in the country to offer theatre production classes for credit. That same year saw the birth of Arthur Miller (BA ’38), who went on to became one of our country’s most distinguished playwrights.
Now, 100 years later, the Department of Theatre & Drama celebrates its centennial and Miller’s centenary, as well as the landmark of 125 years of offering acting classes for college credit.
The Homecoming weekend (Oct. 8-11) will host the majority of the centennial festivities including A Very StarKid Reunion (Oct. 8), a concert featuring StarKid, the troupe formed at U-M in 2009 after their student production of the internet sensation A Very Potter Musical; a theatre alumni tailgate before the Oct. 10 football game (Michigan vs. Northwestern): and alumni-hosted career sessions (Oct. 8-9) in which theatre, film, and television artists-including Tony-winning Broadway director Jack O’Brien (Hairspray, Henry IV, The Coast of Utopia) and the StarKid cast-share advice with current students.
In addition, a costume exhibit will be on display at the Duderstadt Center Gallery through October 19, showcasing the creativity of faculty and student designers.
The centerpiece of the festivities, honoring both the centennial and the Arthur Miller centenary, are student performances of Miller’s All My Sons (Oct. 8-18), to be presented at the only theatre in the world that bears the playwright’s name, situated within SMTD’s Walgreen Drama Center. The play will feature an all-alumni creative team led by director Wendy C. Goldberg (BA ’95), artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn. The production also features scenic design by Caleb Levengood (BFA ’03), costume design by Taran Muller Zackrison (BFA ’05), lighting design by Christian DeAngelis (BFA ’03), and sound design by Asst. Professor of Theatre & Drama Henry Reynolds.
Inspired by true events, All My Sons is the story of a successful self-made businessman, Joe Keller, who sold the government defective airplane parts during WWII. The blame for the subsequent death of 21 airmen fell on his partner, with Joe exonerated for the crime. Now, after the war, Joe and his wife Kate live with the ghosts of the past-especially the status of their oldest son Larry, missing in action and presumed dead by all but his mother. Eager to move on with his life, their youngest son Chris prepares to propose to the woman he loves-Larry’s ex-fiancée. In what becomes a day of reckoning, devastating truths emerge about honesty, social responsibility, and the cost of the American dream.
An invitation-only gala performance of All My Sons, on Fri., Oct. 9, will be preceded by a red carpet reception to welcome back alumni and celebrate the milestone year with supporters of the Theatre & Drama Department. A dessert afterglow will follow the performance.
In the week following Homecoming, the Department hosts an Arthur Miller Symposium: Arthur Miller @ Michigan and Beyond, as well as a mini-conference (Oct 14-16) to explore Miller’s time at U-M and his continuing connection to the University as he forged his enormously successful career. The symposium begins on Oct. 14 with a keynote address by LSA Professor Enoch Brater, the Kenneth T. Rowe Professor of Dramatic Literature and a leading Miller expert.
On Oct. 15, the symposium continues with a panel discussion titled “Miller as Touchstone for Education, Training, and Social Engagement,” featuring Leigh Woods, professor of theatre and drama, Laurence Goldstein, professor of English literature, and alumnus Richard Ferguson-Wagstaffe.
The symposium concludes on Oct. 16 with “Miller in Production,” in which distinguished alumni and other theatre artists discuss their experience in working on Miller’s plays and how it affected their lives and careers. The panel will include Mark Lamos, artistic director of the Westport County Playhouse in New York and former adjunct professor at SMTD (currently directing Miller’s Broken Glass for Westport); and actor and director John Tillinger, who has won two Lucille Lortel (Off-Broadway) Awards for directing as well the Outer Critics Circle Award.
The mini-conference (Oct. 14-16), sponsored by the U-M Drama Interest Group, features three panel discussions by Miller experts from around the globe. Wednesday’s panel (Oct. 14) will focus on the character of Linda Loman from Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Panelists include Rosemary Malague (University of Pennsylvania), and Isabella Peralta and Arianna Stucki (New York University Abu Dhabi). The panel on Thurs., Oct. 15, features David Palmer, vice-president of the Arthur Miller Society and Claire Conceison from Tufts University. Closing out the mini-conference will be Rupali Mirza from Intergral University in Lucknow, India, and Shelley Manis from U-M speaking on Miller’s No Villain and The Archibishop’s Ceiling respectively.
The Department of Theatre & Drama can lay claim to hundreds of successful graduates across the spectrum of theatre careers, including Tony, Oscar, and Emmy- winning actor James Earl Jones (BA ’55); Broadway director Benjamin Endsley Klein (War Horse, Ann; BFA ’02); Darren Criss (BA ’09), one of the StarKid creators, a TV heartthrob on FOX’s Glee and, most recently, star of Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Richard Winkler (BA ’70), multiple Tony Award-winning producer (Hand to God, Memphis); actor James Wolk (BFA ’07, Mad Men, The Crazy Ones, Zoo); Dominique Morisseau (BTA ’00) winner of the Kennedy Prize for Drama for her play Detroit ’67; Marc Kamler (BTA ’01) Partner/Vice-President for Alternative and International TV, APA Talent and Literary Agency; and Margo Martindale (BA ’73), a two-time Emmy-winner, including “Guest Actress in a Drama” in 2015 for The Americans.
For tickets and more information on the Department of Theatre & Drama Centennial and Arthur Miller Centenary events, visit smtd.umich.edu/theatre100.