Sunday, August 27, 2006

INTERVIEW: Ree & Maurice (Maury) Miller

Unsung heroes of the theatre are those who generally get the least amount of applause and attention for their untold contributions. These are the individuals who do much of the grunt work, who add invaluable magic touches to any production, all in an effort to wrap up the production nicely and tie on the ribbons, and offer it lovingly to the public. Some volunteers do mailings, while other don white coats and escort the audience to their assigned seats. Still others cook and feed a hungry cast. Although I personally applaud them all with a long-standing ovation, I have singled out a pair of volunteers who seem to be ubiquitous in the San Diego Theatre Community. If you haven’t met these two, it’s time for an introduction.

Cuauhtémoc Q. Kish (CQK): Ree, I’d like you to describe your dapper husband, Maury, in three words and then I’ll ask Maury to describe his capable wife in three succinct words as well.

Ree Miller (RM): Maury is kind, brilliant and warm.

Maurice Miller (MM): I would describe Ree as consistent, determined and empathetic.

CQK: That sounds like a great combination to me.

[Ree and Maury seem to have done well with the upbringing of their three children (or was it simply accidental?). Maury was quite happy to announce that none were currently residing within State and/or Federal prison walls. Their two sons reside in Minneapolis; one is a Professor at the University of Minneapolis while the other is a computer consultant for a large banking company. Their daughter lives in Portland and works as a school nurse as well as being licensed in Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture.]

CQK: I’ve heard that both of you have a previous connection to the medical profession; is that a well-founded rumor?

MM: I retired as a MD (General Practice).

RM: And I worked as a medical assistant in his office.

CQK: So it was love at first sight in a sterile medical environment?

RM: Not exactly.

[While Maury was assigned overseas to the Merchant Marines during the War, Ree was stateside in the Navy; reenlisting, discharging and transferring the troops. Ree later, at her mother’s dogged insistence, pursued a teaching degree and she’s credentialed to instruct those impossible tykes at grade school and middle school levels. She makes no bones about the fact that she was never overly fond of that profession; preferring less confrontational positions such as the audio-visual coordinator job that she held for a time. On another note, Maury started medical school at the ripe age of 32 after giving up his share of the family scrap metal business, much as you might imagine, at the strong and constant encouragement his devoted and determined wife, Ree. He attended Indiana University and the University of Illinois.]

CQK: When did Cupid’s arrow strike?

RM: On a blind date at the beach in Michigan City, Indiana.

MM: After a four month engagement we tied the knot.

CQK: So you were born and raised in Indiana?

RM: I was born in New Haven, Connecticut.

MM: I was born in Michigan City, Indiana; it’s on the tip of Lake Michigan.

[If you’ve ever been to a theatre opening in San Diego, chances are you were handed a program by the delightful, diminutive Maury, who has a strange, uncanny resemblance to the late, macabre Alfred Hitchcock, except Maury carries a bright, constant twinkle in his eyes, or directed to your seat by the always-welcoming, hug-gifting Ree. They seem to be everywhere; willing, able, and ready to make things run smoothly and efficiently, (box office, computer data entry, or ushering) in any professional theatre in town. Without people like Ree and Maury, your theatre experience would be less.]

CQK: How long have you been in San Diego and when did you get hooked on theatre?

RM: We’ve been in San Diego since 1985.

MM: Some 21 years.

RM: My love for theatre goes back to New Haven, where for seventy-five cents I could get a second balcony seat at the Shubert Theatre.

MM: We went to Chicago all the time to attend theatre productions when we lived in Michigan City.

RM: It never mattered what the weather was like: rain, snow, hail; we drove the 60 miles because we both loved theatre.

CQK: I haven’t seen you at Community Theatre events; why is that?

RM: We attend student productions at venues like UCSD and City College...

MM: ...but there just isn’t any time to attend Community Theatre productions.

RM: Our theatre plate is quite full.

MM: We’re actually overloaded.

[Ree and Maury are on “volunteer usher teams” at the Old Globe Theatre. In addition, they sign up in the “book” at the San Diego Rep and are “partner-volunteers” at La Jolla Playhouse.]

RM: And you have to realize that we love to visit the cinema...

MM: ...and music performances at the San Diego Chamber Orchestra and San Diego Early Music Society.

CQK: Would it be safe to say that there are more than a few theatres in San Diego that count on the Millers to be there on opening night?

RM: We do opening nights for Cygnet, New Village Arts, Moxie and Diversionary.

MM: And we are invited to the opening at North Coast Rep since we do “Will-Call” and other volunteer work for them.

[Perhaps these two are addicted to theatre (correction; good theatre); Ree boldly admits to having seen Intimate Apparel at the Rep and My Fair Lady at Cygnet three times. Now, in my book that’s a bit more than just liking theatre. That’s more akin to a love affair.]

CQK: All this activity seems to suggest that there isn’t much activity in the Miller kitchen. Is that a fair assumption?

RM: I don’t cook much since I’m principally a vegan.

MM: I’m the omnivore in the family, so I’ve been assigned to cook for myself.

CQK: Although you are not critics, you probably see just as much as most of the reviewers in town. What have been some of your recent favorites?

RM: We love Eveoke productions.

MM: The recent Halpern & Johnson (starring Robert Grossman and Jonathan McMurtry) production at North Coast Rep comes to mind.

RM & MM: And the Miser at La Jolla Playhouse.

CQK: Are there many instances where you haven’t enjoyed the experience?

RM: If we don’t particularly like the show, we generally enjoy the actor’s performance.

MM: And there are some actors we truly enjoy...

RM: ...like Ron Choularton and Rosina Reynolds...and others.

MM: It’s rare that we would ever walk out of a production.

RM: I tend to enjoy productions that are not depressing.

MM: The most important aspect of a production is one that rings true.

CQK: With so much time spent volunteering in San Diego Theatres, is there time for other fun activities?

RM: I like to travel. I’ll be going to Paris in June with my daughter.

MM: I find traveling not quite worth the effort at this time in my life. I start most days by working a crossword puzzle.

[The Millers will soon be celebrating their 57th Anniversary, having tied the knot in 1949 when both were mere babes of 26. Ree’s the early riser in the family, getting up and ready to take on sewing and knitting classes, discussion groups, etc. This allows Mario to sleep late so he can stay up later and catch Turner classics and history shows until 3AM.]

CQK: Was there ever a time when you were on stage?

RM: I acted very briefly in a few plays in college.

MM: My only experience was as a crew member for our high school production of Our Town.

CQK: What does the word accomplishment mean to you?

RM: Getting a free night to do whatever I want.

MM: I think that word has been relegated to the past. My accomplishments of father, husband and physician are finished and chronicled. I look towards the accomplishments of others.

CQK: If you made a wrong turn at the end of your life and suddenly came head-to-head with the devil, what would you say to her?

RM: You’ve got the wrong person.

MM. Get lost!

Individuals like Ree and Maurice are invaluable living and breathing assets to the theatre community. Without them, our theatre experience would be less. I applaud them and offer them my personal thanks and offer them a communal thanks from the community at large. You, two of the many unsung heroes in the community, are both loved and appreciated by so many. May you forever be with us.

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