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AN INTERVIEW WITH PLAYWRIGHT BERNARD WEINRAUB

Charles Haugland: What interested you in this story?

Bernard Weinraub: Arthur Miller wrote so publicly about right and wrong and how to treat people. “Attention must be paid.” He told you that you had a responsibility to your children and to people around you. At his memorial service, another writer who spoke said, “he taught us how to behave.” You have all of this on the one hand, and then on the other hand, he deletes his child from his life. That contradiction is what interested me.The tragic part of all this is that Miller never got to know his son, who by all accounts has grown into a formidable person in his own right, and is adored by people who know him. The sadness is that Miller never realized that he produced a son who was special, and not a source of shame, shame that Miller lived with for 40 years of his life.

How did you discover that as a story for an audience?

I became interested in Miller’s play After the Fall. He had at that point married and then divorced Marilyn Monroe, and while he was writing After the Fall, she killed herself. After the Fall was his most thoroughly autobiographical play. Elia Kazan directed it; they finally reconciled over the House Un-American Activities Commission so that he could direct this play. But it was such a weird play because there’s a character in it based on Elia Kazan, a character based on Arthur Miller, and a character based on his new wife, the German photographer Inge Morath. Then the second act was dominated by this blonde; her name in the play was Maggie and she was a singer, but she was dressed to look just like Marilyn Monroe. When the play premiered, Arthur Miller denied it was Marilyn Monroe, which was insane. Everybody mocked him, and the reviews eviscerated him for trampling on her grave by having an actress made up to lookand sound just like Marilyn. That capacity for denial made it seem like the place to start this story. And it was during the rehearsals for that play, that Inge Morath was pregnant with Daniel Miller.

What drew you to playwriting originally? What interested you about becoming a writer?

I grew up in New York, and I went to a lot of plays on my own. By the time I was 14 or 15, I wanted to be a playwright. Then I went to college, and was drafted into the army. They put me on a newspaper, even though I had little interest in it. When I got out of the army, I got a job as a copy boy at The New York Times. I found that I liked being in the journalistic world, and had my career not worked out, I would have become a playwright then. But I worked overseas for the Times, and then I covered Hollywood and politics in Washington, DC.

When did you start writing again?

I wrote a story for the Times about the controversy over a documentary on PBS called “Who Shall Live & Who Shall Die” about anti-Semitism in the state department and why the US government had not intervened sooner in the Holocaust. I began interviewing some of the men involved in the documentary; at first, I thought it was a novel. But then I took this playwriting course at UCLA and I began writing it as a play called The Accomplices. Then I wrote another play, which was about journalists, Above the Fold. And now I’ve written this play. Playwriting has always fascinated me.


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