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Miller's Tale 

State of the Arts

Published February 25, 2004 at 5:00 p.m.

Is the Great White Way being rerouted through White River Junction? Not quite. But according to Northern Stage Artistic Director Brooke Ciardelli, the theater company has found itself a spot inside New York theater's "gossip loop."

It started with Patrick Stewart. Or rather, it started with actress and NS favorite Lisa Harrow, a friend of Stewart's who recruited him for a staged reading of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at NS in January. Shortly thereafter, over a Manhattan lunch, Stewart happened to mention to a friend that he'd just done a reading of Virginia Woolf with this nice little theater up in Vermont. The friend was Arthur Miller.

That opened the door for a call from Ciardelli. Would the playwright be willing to do something for NS in conjunction with an April production of Miller's All My Sons?

No, but he could offer the company something better: a chance to do a staged reading of his newest play, Resurrection Blues, a dark comedy about a dictator who wants to crucify a Christ-like rebel leader and sell the TV rights. The play premiered two years ago at the Guthrie in Minneapolis and had its East Coast premiere last fall at the Wilma in Philadelphia. Both productions, though heavily hyped, received mixed reviews, and Miller wanted a chance to hear the script again in original form before its next full production at the Old Globe in San Diego. Enter Northern Stage.

Ciardelli will direct the reading, this Sunday at 3 p.m. Miller will be in attendance, and he'll discuss the play with the audience afterwards. Not surprisingly, the event is already nearly sold out.

What's it been like to deal with a living legend?

"It's like speaking to God," says Ciardelli. But she found Miller, who's 88, to be very direct. When she asked if she should contact his agent about the reading, he responded, "I'm the playwright, who else are you gonna talk to? I'm telling you, ‘Do the show,' do the show!" Miller is not asking for any payment, and neither is the cast.

Ciardelli says Resurrection Blues is a "a funny, funny, funny play… but it's a crucifixion comedy." She's prepared for the possibility that not everyone in the audience is going to appreciate the mix. Critics have been split: While not crazy about the satire, they admired Miller's passion.

Coincidentally, Mel Gibson's Passion opens just a few days before Miller's Resurrection. By Sunday, a crucifixion comedy may be just the thing.


slapped together?

Last Sunday's benefit for Middlebury's Town Hall Theater restoration displayed all the signs of a good fundraising event: shows of support, upraised hands, cheerful demeanors and occasional slaps upside the head.

And that was just the performance by the Dance Company of Middlebury.

The beautiful, barn-like studio of Brandon artist Fran Bull was the site for the standing-room-only party, the second THT fundraiser she's hosted. The first was a "three sopranos" concert last summer, with Bull as one of the singers.

Since launching the capital campaign six years ago, THT Executive Director Doug Anderson and volunteers have raised $1.1 million for the project. They need twice that to complete the first phase of structural and aesthetic repairs.

As for the slaps, they were part of a Samoan native dance by Falani Kalolo, 22, a charismatic New Zealander who's a visiting artist at Middlebury this semester. Later, Kalolo and a partner livened up the post-show Q&A with a running, tumbling dance in the snow just outside the studio's big glass doors.


goldberg variations

Prolific Burlington playwright Steve Goldberg had a rough year in 2003: His wife, singer-songwriter Rachel Bissex, contracted and survived breast cancer, and Goldberg, 65, had to have both hips replaced. Before going under anesthesia, he came up with a plan "so I'd be sure to wake up": a yearlong retrospective of all 20 of his plays. Now his dream's becoming a reality: Auditions have been scheduled for March 13 and 20 at the Fletcher Free Library, and a kickoff evening of Goldberg monologues is slated for June 2. Most of his plays have already been seen in Burlington, and a few have been produced in New York; they range from 1982's The Sandtrap, in which "the powers that be attempt to exploit a brilliant, eccentric inventor and his bizarre wife," to 2003's rollicking death-row farce Don and Tom. So who wants to see them again? He knows there's one group for sure: "Actors really do love doing my stuff." Goldberg has already had a conclave with a dozen who are interested, including such stalwarts as John D. Alexander, Paul Soychak, Tracey Girdich, Jordan Gullikson and Seven Days political columnist Peter Freyne.


Gras di da

Ya gotta love a parade where the politicians dress like clowns and straight guys go crazy for jewelry. Favorite favor: The fortune cookie tossed from Lyric Theater's King and I float with the message, "You may attend a party where strange customs prevail." Talk about truth in advertising.

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David Warner


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