River Forest professor pays tribute to wife with show
River Forest resident Bob Miller, professor of business law at Dominican University,wrote a play from collections of stories about his wife Maizy’s family. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:59PM
RIVER FOREST — Closing in on retirement as a Dominican University business professor, Bob Miller has already compiled a 20-item list.
It is neither a litany of home improvement projects that have fallen through the cracks during his 27 years of teaching nor a list of intended vacation destinations. It is a list of writing projects the River Forest resident wants to tackle.
Starting to phase into retirement, Miller has only taught one semester for the last couple of years. He is looking to do more fiction writing.
Miller said scattered on a floor of his home are the starting pieces of a murder mystery novel. He also has plans to turn the reality play “Eli, Eli,” which he debuted at Dominican in 2004, into a novel. Miller has another play in the works and wants to do a modern musical adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People.”
In May, he plans to unveil a “walk and talk” production of a conversation with President Harry Truman.
“I teach in the School of Business, but I have always been interested in fiction writing … I have always told my students that I am a jack of all trades and a master of absolutely none,” Miller said.
Miller’s latest work, “So Anyway,” debuted Friday in Dominican’s Martin Recital Hall, 7900 W. Division St. Miller said the play was written as a tribute to his wife, Maizy, and the stories of her family and the Millers’ own family.
“But they are stories that people recognize, stories that are in all families,” he said.
There are stories of Maizy losing her job after 35 years, of one of their daughter’s having a miscarriage, of when another daughter had surgery, and of when the Millers nearly died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“We couldn’t wake up. It was on the anniversary of her father’s death,” Bob Miller said, “but Maizy heard a train whistle, and we were able to get up and get going.
“The gas company came and checked our house and they told us to go to the hospital. We were checked and they said we were lucky, that our blood still had elevated carbon monoxide levels and that was several hours after being out of the house.”
Miller said 98 percent of the play is comprised of Maizy’s actual stories. The remaining 2 percent is a figment of Bob’s imagination, to ease with transitions.
The title, “So Anyway,” came from the Millers’ son-in-law, who at one point whispered to Bob that when he hears Maizy say the words “so anyway,” he knows he “is in for 15 minutes of stories.”
Maizy Miller said she is fine with her husband sharing her family’s stories with perfect strangers though the play’s creative process caused some friction.
“He asked me to read it and there was one part that was up,” Maizy said. “I said, ‘Take it out, it’s not me. It’s not funny.’ He said he couldn’t take it out. I told him if he didn’t take it out, he couldn’t use my stories.
“But I am honored he took the time to write it.”
Bob Miller has been in business on and off for most of his life. He has taught for most of his life, as well. He developed a course on entrepreneurship 27 years ago before such courses became commonplace.
In 1972, he made a Democratic Party primary bid for Congress, a decision he paid for financially for years.
“It cost a lot of money, and your biggest supporters are always local businesses,” Miller said. “After the campaign, all the glad-handers disappear and you are left to do everything yourself.
“The professionals said that after the fact you don’t pay all your fees, that you only pay a portion of each dollar owed. We paid back dollar for dollar what we owed to the local businesses. It took us 15 years to do, but we did it. I even had to borrow against one insurance policy.”