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Arthur Miller: After the Fall

In 1962 Miller married the photographer Inge Morath, with whom he had two children. Miller never again enjoyed the critical and commercial success of the 1940s and '50s. His output never diminished, however, and his later plays explored the personal as well as the political. In 1964 he wrote After the Fall, a play whose main character strongly resembled Marilyn Monroe. Critics slammed the playwright (who claimed the resemblance was purely coincidental), accusing him of exploiting his ex-wife's recent death. Four year later he wrote The Price, a play about two brothers coming to grips with their father's recent death (Miller's own father had died just a few years before).

Miller also became more involved with liberal political causes. He was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, and attended the 1968 Democratic National Convention as a delegate. He was elected president of PEN, an international organization of writers dedicated to human rights. He lobbied on behalf of writers censored or imprisoned around the world. His interest in the cause of silenced writers in the Soviet Union led him to write the play The Archbishop's Ceiling, which opened in the U.S. in 1977 to lackluster reviews. When the play premiered in Britain a few years later, however, audiences responded passionately, leading to a revival of Miller's work in the United Kingdom. Other plays responded directly to historical events that touched him, whether it was The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (a take on the Reagan years) or Broken Glass (a play about Kristallnacht, the Nazis' 1938 attack against Germany's Jewish citizens). He never ran out of things to say. Finishing the Picture, his final play, premiered in 2004, just before Miller's 89th birthday and only a few months before his death on 10 February 2005 at home in Connecticut.

In his final years, Miller spoke and wrote often of his frustration with modern theater. He felt that big-budget, feel-good junk like The Lion King (hey, Arthur Miller singled Simba out, not us) was pushing intelligent plays with social commentary off the stage. He mourned the fact that plays like The Crucible would likely not be produced today, owing to their large cast and overt political message. If profits were the only thing driving theater, he said, the sense of social justice that drove him and other playwrights to write would be useless. "If the thing is gonna be regarded the same as the fish business, it ain't gonna work,"11 he once said of producers' profit-driven mentality. In an age where skateboarding cats on YouTube pass for entertainment and friending Barack Obama on Facebook counts as political activism, we could all learn a thing or two from Arthur Miller's plays, even now that he's gone. For as Willy Loman once said about far less gifted a man, "A star like that, magnificent, can never really fade away."12

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