About Edward Franklin Albee, III
Edward Franklin Albee III ( /ˈɔːlbiː/ AWL-bee; born March 12, 1928) is an American playwright who is known for works such as The Zoo Story (1958), The Sandbox (1959), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), and a rewrite of the book for the unsuccessful musical Breakfast at Tiffany's an adaptation of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's (1966). His works are considered well-crafted, often unsympathetic 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. 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. Albee continues to experiment in works, such as The Goat: or, Who Is Sylvia? (2002).
According to Magill's Survey of American Literature (2007), Edward Albee was born somewhere in Virginia (the popular belief is that he was born in Washington, D.C.). He was adopted two weeks later and taken to Larchmont, New York in Westchester County, where he grew up. Albee's adoptive father, Reed A. Albee, the wealthy son of vaudeville magnate Edward Franklin Albee II, owned several theaters. Here the young Edward first gained familiarity with the theatre as a child. His adoptive mother, Reed's third wife, Frances tried to raise Albee to fit into their social circles.
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. In response to his expulsion, Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is believed to be based on his experiences at Trinity College.
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." More recently, 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. His first play, The Zoo Story, was first staged in Berlin. The less than diligent student later dedicated much of his time to promoting American university theatre. He currently is a distinguished professor at the University of Houston, where he teaches an exclusive playwriting course. His plays are published by Dramatists Play Service and Samuel French, Inc..
Albee is openly gay and states that he first knew he was gay at age 12 and a half. He has insisted, however, that he does not want to be known as a "gay writer", stating 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."
Albee's longtime partner, Jonathan Thomas, a sculptor, died on May 2, 2005, from bladder cancer.
A member of the Dramatists Guild Council, Albee has received three Pulitzer Prizes for drama—for A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975), and Three Tall Women (1994). His play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf 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. Albee was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972. 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 a.k.a. "Doctor Honoris Causa" by the Bulgarian National Academy of Theater and Film Arts (NATFA), a member of the Global Alliance of Theater Schools.
Albee is the President of the Edward F. Albee Foundation, Inc., which maintains the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center, a writers and artists colony in Montauk, New York.
In 2008, in celebration of Albee's eightieth birthday, a number of his plays were mounted in distinguished Off Broadway venues, including the historic Cherry Lane Theatre. The playwright directed two of his one-acts, The American Dream and The Sandbox there. These were first produced at the theater in 1961 and 1962, respectively.
Stretching My Mind: Essays 1960–2005 (Avalon Publishing, 2005)
Mark Richman & William Daniels in The Zoo Story by Edward Albee—Directed by Arthur Luce Klein (LP, Spoken Arts SA 808)
Awards and nominations