Play offers insight into obligations of artists, and the power of redemption

WHAT ARE THE OBLIGATIONS OF AN artist to her public? Playwright Deb Hiett (pronounced “height”) began contemplating that question when she read about the controversy surrounding Lee Harper’s second novel, which she had actually written before her best-selling classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Though the author insisted for decades she would never publish another book, suddenly her earlier effort was released. Some people questioned if Ms. Harper had truly changed her mind after all these years and whether she was lucid enough to give permission.

“I have to say that I had always been very inspired by Harper Lee as an Alabama writer, being myself an Alabama writer (now living in Los Angeles),” Ms. Hiett says.

“I was fascinated by what had happened to her during the last years of her life, the fact that she had never published again after ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ despite years of people craving and wanting more of this gifted writer. It started me thinking of that thematic question: what does an artist owe the world?”

Ms. Hiett’s play, “Miss Keller Has No Second Book,” is emphatically not about Harper Lee, but was “very loosely inspired” by her story.

“Our lives are improved by these artistic endeavors,” she says. “When we find a writer, painter, dramatist, we yearn for more that we got from them. Yet it’s almost no consequence what toll that might take on them. It’s interesting to think that it’s a demand, it’s an expectation the public starts to have, when it’s a celebrated work.”

Nancy Stetson
Florida Weekly

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