Arthur Miller is one of those names that always comes up when American Playwrights are discussed. He first wrote plays at my alma mater, the University of Michigan. I don’t know if any were ever produced there when he was a student, but I certainly have fond memories of my playwriting classes and the play I wrote/directed/co-produced. Miller was lucky to live a long life and knew a theatre was being built at UofM in his name but was unable to see its completion.
According to a Detroit Free Press article, the Walgreen Drama Center, a building named after its primary donor, Charles Walgreen Jr, (former UofM grad in pharmacy school, founder of Walgreens) houses the Arthur Miller Theatre and the first production will be performed this Thursday. It is, fittingly, “Playing for Time” by Arthur Miller. Sadly, Mr. Walgreen also passed away during the construction, but he made it to 100 years old! (Kinda makes me want to shop at Walgreens more, although I’m already a frequent customer.)
I spent half of my time at UofM on North Campus where engineering classes were held, and half my time on Central Campus where drama, literature and general courses were held. It seems odd to me that the arts and engineering are now all in one place. So much has changed since I was there – campus looks so different now. I’m actually sad they will be replacing the Frieze Building with a dormitory, although I’m sure it’s a smart move. I have fond memories of many classes in the Frieze Building – Russian and Writing for TV being two that come to mind.
I’m glad to see that Michigan is making a stronger commitment to the arts. They always had good programs, but I felt they haven’t been known for their arts as much as for business, engineering, sports and other areas. Maybe the time has come for the alma mater of Lawrence Kasdan, Judith Guest and James Earl Jones to take its place as a wellspring of great performing artists. (Not that I’m biased.)