Arthur Miller's daughter is leading the effort to save his CT studio

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Jun 06, 2023

Arthur Miller's daughter is leading the effort to save his CT studio

Playwright Arthur Miller (pictured here in 1963) wrote some of his most iconic

Playwright Arthur Miller (pictured here in 1963) wrote some of his most iconic works in this small shed. Efforts are underway to restore and preserve the shack, which fell into disrepair after Miller's death.

In the waning days of his life, Arthur Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, insisted on being at his Roxbury home as the end drew near. An urban intellect for much of his adult life, Miller had increasingly found solace amid the rural charm of a New England town that had been attracting New York's creative elites for decades.

Though his property on Tophet Road stretched more than 325 acres and included an 18th-century farmhouse, Miller's most treasured spot was tucked away behind the main house. There, amid a dense forest of trees and a narrow brook, sat a modest, 300-square-foot writing studio that Miller had built shortly after buying the property with his second wife, Marilyn Monroe, in 1958.

"My father wrote in the studio every morning and some afternoons," says Miller's daughter, Rebecca, the filmmaker and novelist who profiled her father in the 2018 HBO documentary Arthur Miller: Writer. "It was Arthur's sanctum," she says.

Those were some of his most productive years as a writer. Miller penned more than a dozen stage plays inside that studio, including After the Fall and Playing for Time. It was also where he wrote screenplays for The Crucible and The Misfits, a film that starred Monroe and Clark Gable. His autobiography, Timebends, was also written in the cedar-shingle studio.

Despite its literary significance, the studio sits in a far less exalted location today: propped up in a roadside municipal parking lot in Roxbury alongside a dumpster and truck plows. It was moved there a few years ago, more than a decade after the writer's death in 2005, by Rebecca Miller, with the idea of eventually donating it to the town of Roxbury.

It's sat there ever since. And while the playwright's place in the pantheon of American literature has long been secure, his writing studio remains in limbo.

Efforts are underway to restore and preserve Arthur Miller's Roxbury writing studio, which has fallen into disrepair since the author's death in 2005.

But a fundraising effort to rescue the 14-by-22-foot building is underway. The Arthur Miller Studio Project — a nonprofit composed mostly of local residents — is spearheading a campaign to restore the studio to its mid-century glory and open it to the public. The group recently launched a GoFundMe page as a first step in raising the $1 million it says it needs to cover renovation and site relocation costs as well as upkeep in perpetuity. Reaching that funding goal is the only way the town will accept the studio as a gift.

"The studio was a real focal point of his creative energy in Roxbury," says Stephen Marino, a Miller scholar and former president of the Arthur Miller Society. He's also a board member of the Arthur Miller Studio Project. "It's a critical part of his legacy."

The goal is to move the studio to the Minor Memorial Library in Roxbury and create a publicly accessible site that would host writing workshops and lectures, educational programs and eventually residencies for writers. It would also create partnerships with local writers’ groups and theater companies.

Arthur Miller's Roxbury writing studio in 1963.

Marino says the effort would honor the spirit of Miller's life and work while making the studio the intellectual center of the community. "We have the opportunity to preserve a piece of literary history that will give aspiring writers and others the ability to visit where many of his works were created," says Marino.

But a deadline is looming. The town's Highway Department lot — where the building sits today — is about to undergo long-planned site work which will force the dwelling to move again. So the Studio Project is enlisting locals and friends to get the fundraising word out in the hope of reaching that $1 million goal.

A breakdown of the project's costs includes $200,000 for renovation work on the studio and its relocation, according to figures from the Studio Project. That includes reinforcing the structural integrity of the building and moving the studio. Another $800,000 would cover ongoing maintenance and programming at the site.

Arthur Miller in his Roxbury writing studio, in a photo from 1977.

"The interior would be restored with all its original furnishings," says Marc Olivieri, a Roxbury resident and homebuilder who Rebecca Miller enlisted to move the studio in 2018 after the playwright's home was sold.

Those furnishings include the writing desk Miller made from a wooden door, his typewriter and the desk chairs that reflect the studio's different eras — from a 1950s molded fiberglass chair to a fabric-covered swivel office chair added in the 1990s. Family photographs and a framed drawing by Rebecca Miller will also be returned to the space.

"Occasionally I would go up and knock and have a conversation," says Rebecca Miller. "I remember the huge dictionary on the stand, a photo of a Greek sculpture, and a curling photo of me as a baby with my mother on the wall."

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