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By Devin Rose
Bob Miller has always considered himself a storyteller. He's three-quarters Irish, he says, so it's in his genes.
He has that love of storytelling in common with Mazy, his wife of 45 years. According to the couple's son-in-law, it's always obvious when one of Mazy's stories is about to begin. As Miller's son-in-law told him one day, if she starts a sentence with "So anyway," he knows he's in for at least 15 minutes of listening.
When Miller heard that, he realized he had found the title for his recently completed play. So Anyway is a collection of his wife's family stories, which will be presented as a staged reading at Dominican University this weekend.
"I wrote them to celebrate my wife," he said. "I like to work with the universal questions and Mazy's stories are really universal."
Miller, 70, is a professor at the university's Brennan School of Business, which he doesn't see as being much different from his interest in writing and storytelling. He's taught his whole life, and likens teaching to storytelling "because you have to relate to the students what the subject matter is." He presented his first play, Eli, Eli, in 2004, and he's currently turning it into a novel.
His friends in the theater department at Dominican suggested Miller write the play based on Mazy's stories while she was telling them over dinner one night. The tribute to his wife includes stories that range from her childhood in southern Indiana to their own family growing up in River Forest. The Millers have been here almost 50 years and have two daughters and seven grandchildren.
In the stories, Miller wrote about Mazy's mother taking her children popcorn picking and her father making angel food cake. He wrote about his own kids — one learning to climb out of her crib while the other was having surgery that may have left her unable to have children. He wrote about Mazy losing her longtime nursing job, which she was not in favor of at first.
"I thought that was important, so that people can relate to the different emotions," Miller said.
In another story, Mazy was awakened by a train whistle on the night that happened to be the anniversary of her railroader father's death. It was later discovered that carbon monoxide had gotten into their home that night.
Miller is also working on a play about Harry Truman that will be presented at Dominican in the spring. It's a modern adaptation of a play by Henrik Ibsen that Miller is trying to turn into a musical, he says. He's using a life-size cutout of Truman and old audio files of his speeches to make it happen.
So Anyway will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 14-15 and at 3 p.m. on Sept. 16 in the Martin Recital Hall, 7900 W. Division St. Tickets are $12 each and can be reserved through the university box office at 708-488-5000 or www.dom.edu/pac.