American playwright EDWARD ALBEE was born in Washington, DC, as Edward Ranklin Albee III (d: 2016); Albee was best known for his plays Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, A Delicate Balance and Three Tall Women. 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 Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, and Eugène Ionesco. Younger American playwrights, such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel, credit Albee’s daring mix of theatricalism and biting dialogue with helping to reinvent the post-war American theater in the early 1960s. Albee continues to experiment in new works, such as The Goat: or, Who Is Sylvia? (2002).
He won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1963 and 2002, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1967, 1975 and 1994. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1996. In 2005 Albee received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.
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”, 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.” His longtime partner, Jonathan 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. Albee died at his Montauk New York, home in September 2016, aged 88.
A little Albee:
“What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it? A usefully lived life is probably going to be, ultimately, more satisfying.”
“Writing should be useful. If it can’t instruct people a little bit more about the responsibilities of consciousness there’s no point in doing it.”
“Creativity is magic. Don’t examine it too closely.”
“Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”