With a single postcard, Arthur Miller ensured his legacy at the University would endure. Penned by Miller in 2000, the postcard granted his alma mater the rights to name a theater after him which, when completed, will be the only theater in the world bearing Miller’s name.
Since 1997, University administrators wished to commemorate Miller’s love for the stage by constructing a theater in his honor. Even after five years of planning difficulties, that dream may soon become a reality when a design scheme is submitted to the University Board of Regents this spring, according to Diane Brown, University Facilities and Operations spokeswoman.
The Arthur Miller Theater will be part of the University’s Walgreen Drama Center, which will be located on North Campus. In the future, the Walgreen Center — made possible in part by a $10 million gift by University alum and retired Walgreen Drug Company president Charles Walgreen — will house the School of Music as well as the Department of Theater and Drama.
“We are taking the Walgreen plans to the regents in the spring, and then they are going to approve the schematic designs,” Brown said.
Karen Wolff, dean of the School of Music, said the construction is on track and that she expects to be able to move students into the Walgreen Center by late summer 2006. But Wolff said it saddens her that Miller will never see the theater made in his honor. Originally, Miller planned to write an inaugural play for the facility, Wolff added.
“I saw him last November in Michigan,” Wolff said. “He was very sick. But he did speak to the audience. He said he always wanted to write something for the new Arthur Miller Theater, but now we won’t know what it would have been about.”
The theater will showcase student productions. Besides a 250-seat theater, the 100,000 square-foot facility will also have rehearsal rooms, studios, classrooms, workshops and faculty offices. It will replace the 110-seat Trueblood Theater in the Frieze Building.
Former University President Lee Bollinger first suggested the theater in 1997 in an effort to demonstrate the University’s rich history through physical ties to the past.
“Future generations of students will see his name on the walls of that theater and know the extent of the possibilities that lie before them because of his life,” Wolff said.
Six former students of the University have recently been nominated for Tony awards, American theater’s highest honor.
“We have superb programs in theater and musical theater,” University Provost Paul Courant said in July. “Finally they will have space that will support and enhance their marvelous quality.”
After Miller’s approval in 2000, the theater was originally slated for a Central Campus site near the Power Center. Further revisions to the plans sent it to the North Campus area. Then the cost increased from the budgeted $20 million to an estimated $67 million, mostly because of the increased needs of the involved departments, such as the dance and theater programs. After a short pause, the project again gained steam last June with the approval of the Regents to move ahead with planning.