Almost from the beginning he clashed with the strong-minded Mrs. Albee, rebelling against her attempts to make him a success as well as a sportsman and a member of the Larchmont, New York, social set. Instead, young Albee pursued his interest in the arts, writing macabre and bitter stories and poetry, while associating with artists and intellectuals considered objectionable by Mrs. Albee. [The Kennedy Center. org]
After he dropped out of Trinity College in his sophomore year he had a rift with his family. (He never saw his father again.) He moved to New York’s Greenwich Village and lived on a small inheritance and by doing odd jobs — like delivering telegrams — while honing his writing skills. Albee tried his hand at poetry and fiction before finding his groove as a playwright.In 1959 his first play, The Zoo Story was produced in Berlin, Germany. I came to New York, Off-Broadway in 1960. The Zoo Story is a one-act play “in which a loquacious drifter meets a conventional family man on a park bench and provokes him to violence” [Academy of Achievement] Other one acts and short dramas followed including : The Sandbox, The American Dream and The Death of Bessie Smith.
By 1962, he was ready to storm Broadway, the bastion of commercial theater in America. His first Broadway production, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, was a runaway success and a critical sensation. The play received a Tony Award, and Albee was enshrined in the pantheon of American dramatists alongside Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. [Academy of Achievement]
His first Pulitzer Prize came for the 1966 drama A Delicate Balance. Albee won his second Pulitzer in 1975 with Seascape, “which combined theatrical experiment and social commentary in a story about a retired vacationing couple who meet a pair of sea lizards at the beach.” [The Kennedy Center. org] “As bizarre as the idea sounded on first hearing, the result was both humorous and moving. The play charmed audiences and critics…” [Academy of Achievement]
After Seascape the theater critics, unexpectedly, fell out of love with Albee. For nearly two decades he struggled to get the audiences and critical praise he deserved.
In an era of Hollywood-style “play development” by committee, Albee has remained an uncompromising defender of the integrity of his own texts, and a champion of the work of younger authors. Over the years, he has scrupulously reserved part of his time for the training of younger writers. He has conducted regular writing workshops in New York, and … taught playwriting at the University of Houston. He has persistently asked young writers to hold themselves to the highest artistic standards, and to resist what he sees as the encroachment of commercialism on the dramatic imagination. [Academy of Achievement]
In 1994 he was back with Three Tall Women. The play won Albee his third Pulitzer. “In 1996, Albee was one of the recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors and was awarded the National Medal of Arts.” [Ibid] The triumph of Three Tall Women launched the second act for the playwright who saw The Play About the Baby, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? (Tony Award / Drama Desk Award) and Occupant (the story of artist Louise Nevelson*), hit the Great White Way within a decade. Next Albee reworked The Zoo Story in Homelife and presented both plays as Peter and Jerry.
He was honored with a Special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2005.
At 85 Albee continues to write for the stage.
- To read the ritaLOVEStoWRITE bioBLOG on Louise Nevelson click HERE.
- THE STAGES OF EDWARD ALBEE Documentary Premieres 3/27 (broadwayworld.com)
- Q&A: Playwright Edward Albee (cbsnews.com)
- 30 of Edward Albee’s Greatest Lines (flavorwire.com)
- Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. (urtheinspiration.wordpress.com)