Never attaining the name recognition she deserves, the intrepid photographer Lee Miller cut a swath through the 20th century that few, male or female, can equal. Her life story traversed some of its central dramas: artistic, stylistic, technological, humanitarian, geopolitical. It also included a nude dip in Hitler's bathtub.
Now, her forbidable narrative is the subject of Behind the Eye, a new play by Carson Kreitzer. It will debut at the Cincinatti Playhouse on April 2nd, after undergoing development at the Playwright's Center in Minneapolis. Kreitzer is a veteran of the Playhouse, having contributed two prior dramas, including a work about Robert Oppenheimer, so he is well attuned to the historical period.
Some of Miller's weightiest accomplishments include her documentation of concentration camps and the napalming at St. Malo as a war photographer for Conde Nast: she had worked her way to this unimaginable position (for a woman then) from the daughter of an amateur photographer in Poughkeepsie, NY, and later a model for Vogue. On the way, she became intimately familiar with Man Ray during an intense period in the early 1930's, Paris, where she had traveled specifically to seek out the budding Surrealist. She helped him develop important photographic techniques, such as solarization, and is believed to have taken some of the pictures attributed to him. After their separation, she worked commercially in fashion and celebrity; after World War II, during which she established herself indelibly, Miller came to occupy the crux of a lively UK scene. It was frequented by such avant-garde statesmen as Max Ernst, Henry Moore, Jean Debuffet and Pablo Picasso; Miller's own vertiginous and comic portraiture from this period easily held its among this crew.
Behind the Eye, which grapples with this woman's picaresque achievements, will feature, James Saba as Pablo Picasso, Alex Podulke as Paul Eluard, Alan Cox as Man Ray, and Sarah Agnew as Lee Miller herself. Mark Wing-Davey will direct. Through May 1st.