Arthur Miller died. He was 89. When I was in the M.F.A. Theatre program at Columbia University I was fortunate to meet Arthur Miller at a staged reading of a new Arthur Kopit play called Bone the Fish at the old Circle Rep “garage” theatre in the Village near Christopher Street. Kopit’s play was a semi-send up of David Mamet’s successful Speed the Plow Broadway play.
Kopit later changed the title to Road to Nirvana when the play had a full Circle Rep production later in the season. The staged reading starred Sigourney Weaver and it was directed by her husband, Jim Simpson.
I was working as Arthur Kopit’s assistant on the show and I was stationed in the back row of the theatre to take notes. A beautiful young woman came up and asked me to save her the last empty seat next to me. I did not want to commit to saving her seat because the theatre was packed and more people were streaming into the tiny space. Before I could answer her she winked, smiled and disappeared.
Then Arthur Miller pressed his way into the back row. He sat down next to me in the empty chair the beautiful young woman had asked me to reserve for her. He was dressed in a heavy tweed jacket and when he saw the stage setup: Chairs around a table, he asked me if this was “only a goddam reading?”
I confirmed it was a reading and not a full production. Arthur Miller sighed, crossed his arms and glared straight ahead. The beautiful young woman returned to take her seat and when she found it occupied she gave me a filthy look. I shrugged my shoulders and pointed to Arthur Miller and mouthed to her: “Arthur Miller!” She did not care to understand me or to recognize the blazing star who took her seat. She just harrumphed and left the theatre.
As I sat there as an eager new Playwright, I tried to think of a good question to ask Arthur Miller. Before I could open my mouth to inquire about his work process Arthur Miller ever-so-slightly leaned away from me and then let out a long, mumbling fart.
As the house lights dimmed indicating the start of the show and as Sigourney Weaver took the stage to rapid applause I sat there trying to place what just happened to me in the appropriate time and space.
The great American Playwright Arthur Miller had just farted on me and proved, as he had so rarely done in his published work, that even the immortals are human.