A Disturbing Sight Turned Solo Show, an Interview With Michael Miller
Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He wrote the solo show, “Transfiguration,” which will soon be performed at Theatre Row in New York City. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams College. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. Below, he discusses his solo show, “Transfiguration,” and how a disturbing sight at a parade inspired his piece. The show will be performed by Gary Hilborn in the 2018 United Solo Theatre Festival.
Pat McAndrew: How did you discover theater and, more specifically, solo performance? Michael Miller:My parents first took me to see Archibald Macleish’s “J. B.” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Pipe Dream” when I was seven years old, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My first extensive contact with solo performance came in 2007 with Omar Sangare’s Dialogue One Theatre Festival, the precursor to United Solo. I reviewed several plays by Dr. Sangare’s students and by professional guest performers for The Berkshire Review for the Arts, now called Hudson-Housatonic Arts, and continued to follow that festival and later United Solo in New York, where I serve as Literary Advisor.
What inspired you to create “Transfiguration”? It certainly sounds like a timely piece. It is an extensive adaptation of a short story I wrote in 2005, after I saw a disturbing sight at a seasonal parade in North Adams, Massachusetts: a young boy, no older than eight or nine, was patrolling the crowd with toy semi-automatic assault weapon. He looked as if he were surveying the people, fantasizing about who to kill among them.
Wow…I imagine this had to be terrifying. How is this piece important for today’s audience?
Mass shootings are an epidemic in the United States today. We only learn about the biggest incidents through the media. Many, less successful events, go unreported outside the locality where they occur. The situation requires engagement and action from all of us, like the political situation.
What is your favorite part about this show? Its black humor.
What were some challenges that you faced in developing “Transfiguration”? Adapting what was originally conceived as a short story to be read in solitude to a stage work. Today I write plays from scratch and they are fundamentally different. “Transfiguration” is not dramatic in the sense of my recent work for a full cast, “Witzelsucht,” or my opera libretto, “Midi” (Medea), which are traditional “well-made plays.” “Transfiguration” is a work of story-telling.
How does “Transfiguration” speak to other work you have done? It resonates with the violence of “Midi,” which is derived from Euripides’ “Medea,” and the irony of “Witzelsucht,” in which an industrialist pursues an immoral goal with amoral means, ready to sacrifice his daughter for monetary gain.
What do you hope the audience walks away with after seeing your show? A feeling of communality with its deplorable protagonist leading to a moral compunction to be more engaged in the struggle against the ever-increasing gun violence in this country, and by extension the extremely dangerous political situation. All of us have to be engaged and work to change things, hopefully out of compassion for those who have died and suffered loss, but at the very least out of self-preservation.
“Transfiguration” Performed by Gary Hilborn Written and Produced by Michael Miller Oct. 22 at 7:30pm Directed by Graydon Gund Videos by Lucas Miller Stage Manager, T. Rick Jones Photo: courtesy of Michael Miller United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
Pat McAndrew is a NYC-based actor, writer, and consultant . As an actor, he has performed Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, and in various locations throughout New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. His one-man show, REEL, was performed in the 2017 United Solo Theatre Festival and featured in the new documentary, Electronic Crack. Using his background as an actor as his foundation, Pat consults with individuals and organizations on how to communicate effectively and build deep, meaningful relationships in the digital age. He is the Founder of The Low Tech Trek, an organization devoted to discovering a better balance between human interaction and how we use technology. He is a member of Village Playback Theatre, Endless River Arts, and Svaha Theatre Collective. Pat holds an MA in Theatre from Villanova University. Check out patmcandrew.com for more information.