Clarence Brown Theatre continues its new season next week with Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," at the 65-year-old Carousel Theatre, believed to be America's oldest theater-in-the-round. The first time UT took on an Arthur Miller play, it was "All My Sons," starring the very young John Cullum, at the Bijou Theatre in 1949. I don't know whether Miller ever visited Knoxville himself, but UT presented most of controversial author's plays soon after they came out. "The Crucible" appeared at the Bijou in early 1958, just as the playwright was facing contempt of Congress charges for refusing to name suspected Communists to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Later that year, he was cleared in court.
That's all just an excuse to remember another unsettling playwright who was is in the news this week. Edward Albee, well known for his extremely controversial Broadway play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"--it became a movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton--died on Saturday at the age of 88.
UT's theater department has been staging Albee plays since 1963, when it produced "The Zoo Man"--UT produced "Virginia Woolf" in 1968, when it was still making people jumpy in New York.
Then UT hosted the playwright himself in a series of two days of lectures in April, 1976. Perhaps the most famous playwright ever to speak in Knoxville with the exception of Tennessee Williams, Albee spoke at the Carousel Theatre, the same room that's presenting "The Crucible" next week. The public was admitted for free. One of his talks was entitled "The Playwright vs. the Theater." After 40 years, it still sounds provocative.