Edward Franklin Albee III (/ˈɔːlbiː/ AWL-bee; March 12, 1928 – September 16, 2016) was an American playwright known for works such as The Zoo Story (1958), The Sandbox (1959), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), and A Delicate Balance (1966). Three of his plays won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and two of his other works won the Tony Award for Best Play.
His works are often considered as frank examinations of the modern condition. His early works reflect a mastery and Americanization of the Theatre of the Absurd that found its peak in works by European playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet.
His middle period comprised plays that explored the psychology of maturing, marriage, and sexual relationships. Younger American playwrights, such as Paula Vogel, credit Albee's daring mix of theatricality and biting dialogue with helping to reinvent the post-war American theatre in the early 1960s. Later in his life, Albee continued to experiment in works such as The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2002).
|Born||March 12, 1928|
|Died||September 16, 2016 (aged 88)|
Montauk, New York, U.S.
|Notable works||Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?|
The Zoo Story
A Delicate Balance
The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
|Notable awards||Pulitzer Prize for Drama|
Tony Award for Best Play
National Medal of Arts
Special Tony Award
America Award in Literature
|Partner||Jonathan Thomas (esp. 1971; his death 2005)|
Edward Albee was born in 1928. He was placed for adoption two weeks later and taken to Larchmont, New York, where he grew up. Albee's adoptive father, Reed A. Albee, the wealthy son of vaudeville magnate Edward Franklin Albee II, owned several theaters. His adoptive mother, Reed's third wife, Frances (Cotter), was a socialite. He would later base the main character of his 1991 play Three Tall Women on his mother, with whom he had a conflicted relationship.
Albee attended the Clinton High School, then the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, from which he was expelled. He then was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania, where he was dismissed in less than a year. He enrolled at The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, Connecticut, graduating in 1946. His formal education continued at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was expelled in 1947 for skipping classes and refusing to attend compulsory chapel.
Albee left home for good when he was in his late teens. In a later interview, he said: "I never felt comfortable with the adoptive parents. I don't think they knew how to be parents. I probably didn't know how to be a son, either." In a 1994 interview, he stated that he left home at the age of 18 because "[he] had to get out of that stultifying, suffocating environment." In a 2008 interview, he told interviewer Charlie Rose that he was "thrown out" because his parents wanted him to become a "corporate thug" and did not approve of his aspirations to become a writer.
Albee moved into New York's Greenwich Village, where he supported himself with odd jobs while learning to write plays. Primarily in his early plays, Albee's work had various representations of the LGBTQIA community often challenging the image of a heterosexual marriage. Despite challenging society's views about the gay community, he did not view himself as an LGBT advocate. Albee's work typically criticized the American dream. His first play, The Zoo Story, which was written in three weeks, was first staged in Berlin in 1959 before eventually premiering Off-Broadway in 1960. His next play, The Death of Bessie Smith, similarly premiered in Berlin before arriving in New York.
Albee's most iconic play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, opened on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre on October 13, 1962, and closed on May 16, 1964, after five previews and 664 performances. The controversial play won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1963 and was selected for the 1963 Pulitzer Prize by the award's drama jury, but was overruled by the advisory committee, which elected not to give a drama award at all. The two members of the jury, John Mason Brown and John Gassner, subsequently resigned in protest. An Academy Award-winning film adaptation of the controversial play was released in 1966 starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, and Sandy Dennis. In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The less than diligent student later dedicated much of his time to promoting American university theatre. Most recently, he served as distinguished professor at the University of Houston, where he taught an exclusive playwriting course. His plays are published by Dramatists Play Service and Samuel French, Inc.
Albee was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972. In 1985, Albee was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. In 1999, Albee received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a Master American Dramatist. He received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement (2005); the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1980); as well as the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts (both in 1996). In 2009, Albee received honorary degree from the Bulgarian National Academy of Theater and Film Arts (NATFA), a member of the Global Alliance of Theater Schools.
In 2008, in celebration of Albee's 80th birthday, a number of his plays were mounted in distinguished Off-Broadway venues, including the historic Cherry Lane Theatre where the playwright directed two of his early one-acts, The American Dream and The Sandbox.
Albee established the Edward F. Albee Foundation, Inc. in 1967, from royalties from his play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. The foundation funds the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center (named after the composer William Flanagan, but better known as "The Barn") in Montauk, New York, as a residence for writers and visual artists. The foundation's mission is "to serve writers and visual artists from all walks of life, by providing time and space in which to work without disturbance."
Albee was openly gay and stated that he first knew he was gay at age 12 and a half. Albee was briefly engaged to Larchmont debutante Delphine Weissinger, and although their relationship ended when she moved to England, he remained a close friend of the Weissinger family. Growing up, he often spent more of his time in the Weissinger household than he did in his own, due to discord with his adoptive parents.
Albee insisted that he did not want to be known as a "gay writer," saying in his acceptance speech for the 2011 Lambda Literary Foundation's Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement: "A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay." His longtime partner, Jonathan Richard Thomas, a sculptor, died on May 2, 2005, from bladder cancer. They had been partners from 1971 until Thomas's death. Albee also had a relationship of several years with playwright Terrence McNally during the 1950s.
Works written or adapted by Albee:
All Over is a play written by Edward Albee.Earplay
Earplay was the longest-running of the formal series of radio drama anthologies on National Public Radio, produced by WHA in Madison, Wisconsin and heard from 1972 into the 1990s. It approached radio drama as an art form with scripts written by such leading playwrights as Edward Albee, Arthur Kopit, Archibald MacLeish and David Mamet.
Airing in stereo, Earplay provided a showcase for original and adapted work. Eventually, the less-sustained successor series NPR Playhouse drew episodes from the Earplay run. Often presented by NPR member stations on a weekly basis, Earplay episodes were produced with much attention to recording technique and sound-effects.
In 1975, it scored a triumph with Listening, an original play written by Edward Albee for stereo radio, employing one speaker for one character and another speaker for another character. Since both characters are seated in a room, the illusion is created that they are in the same room as the listener. After its premiere on radio, Listening was later performed on stage.
Along with the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, Sears Radio Theater, The General Mills Radio Adventure Theater, Christian radio's Unshackled and Public Radio's The National Radio Theater of Chicago, Earplay was among the most ambitious nationwide projects in the medium in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s.Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo
Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo (formerly titled Peter & Jerry) is a play by Edward Albee which adds a first act to his 1959 play The Zoo Story. This first act, also called Homelife, revolves around the marriage of Peter and Ann and ends with Peter leaving to go read a book in Central Park.Finding the Sun
Finding the Sun is a one-act play by American playwright Edward Albee.Lolita (play)
Lolita is a play adapted by Edward Albee from Vladimir Nabokov's novel of the same name. The troubled production opened on Broadway on March 19, 1981 after 31 previews and closed after only 12 performances.Frank Rich in his New York Times review wondered why the play even opened after "weeks of delays" as it was "the kind of embarrassment that audiences do not quickly forget or forgive." Rich said the least of its sins were incompetence, being boring, and trashing a literary masterpiece. "What sets Lolita apart from ordinary failures is its abject mean-spiritedness," he wrote. "For all this play's babbling about love, it is rank with indiscriminate – and decidedly unearned – hate."Ten years earlier, John Barry and Alan Jay Lerner's musical Lolita, My Love had bombed, closing during tryouts in Boston. (Albee's Lolita also played in Boston before its Broadway launch.) Critics had scored the play, saying that the lack of Nabokov's authorial voice made the musical salacious. Albee put Nabokov on stage in his play, but it did not help.
The cast included Donald Sutherland as Humbert Humbert, Clive Revill as Claire Quilty, Ian Richardson as Nabokov, and Blanche Baker in the title role. Baker was mentioned by Rich in only one line. "In the title role, here a minor figure, the 24-year-old Miss Baker does a clever job of impersonating the downy nymphet; she deserves a more substantial stage vehicle soon."Marriage Play
Marriage Play is a drama for two actors by Edward Albee. The play premiered at Vienna's English Theatre in 1987.Me Myself and I (play)
Me Myself and I is a 2007 play by Edward Albee. It is an absurdist family comedy/drama.Occupant (play)
Occupant is a play by Edward Albee, published in 2001.The American Dream (play)
The American Dream is an early, one-act play by American playwright Edward Albee. It premiered in 1961.The Death of Bessie Smith
The Death of Bessie Smith is a one-act play by American playwright Edward Albee, written in 1959 and premiered in West Berlin the following year. The play consists of a series of conversations between Bernie and his friend Jack, Jack and an off-stage Bessie, and black and white staff of a 'whites-only' hospital in Memphis, Tennessee on the death date of the famous blues singer, Bessie Smith, who died in a car wreck.The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? is a full-length play written in 2000 by Edward Albee which opened on Broadway in 2002. It won the 2002 Tony Award for Best Play, the 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, and was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.The Lady from Dubuque
The Lady from Dubuque is a play by Edward Albee, which premiered on Broadway in 1980 for a brief run. The play ran in London in 2007.The Man Who Had Three Arms
The Man Who Had Three Arms is a two-act play for three actors by Edward Albee. The play ran briefly on Broadway in 1983.The Play About the Baby
The Play About the Baby is a play by Edward Albee.The Sandbox (play)
The Sandbox is a play written by Edward Albee in 1959.The Zoo Story
The Zoo Story is a one-act play by American playwright Edward Albee. His first play, it was written in 1958 and completed in just three weeks. The play explores themes of isolation, loneliness, miscommunication as anathematization, social disparity and dehumanization in a materialistic world. Today, professional theatre companies can produce The Zoo Story either as a part of Edward Albee's at Home at the Zoo (originally titled Peter and Jerry), or as a standalone play. Its prequel, Homelife, written in 2004, however, can only be produced as a part of Edward Albee's at Home at the Zoo.Three Tall Women
Three Tall Women is a play by Edward Albee, which won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Albee's third.Tiny Alice
Tiny Alice is a three-act play written by Edward Albee that premiered on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre in 1964.Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a play by Edward Albee first staged in 1962. It examines the complexities of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. Late one evening, after a university faculty party, they receive an unwitting younger couple, Nick and Honey, as guests, and draw them into their bitter and frustrated relationship.
The play is in three acts, normally taking a little less than three hours to perform, with two 10-minute intermissions. The title is a pun on the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" from Walt Disney's Three Little Pigs (1933), substituting the name of the celebrated English author Virginia Woolf. Martha and George repeatedly sing this version of the song throughout the play.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won both the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1962–63 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. It is frequently revived on the modern stage. The film adaptation was released in 1966, written by Ernest Lehman, directed by Mike Nichols, and starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, George Segal and Sandy Dennis.
Plays by Edward Albee
Awards for Edward Albee