Edward Albee, Pulitzer-winning playwright of some of the most emotionally affecting works of his generation, has died at the age of 88 at his home in Montauk, Long Island.
His best-known and most-produced play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is widely regarded as a 20th centruy theatrical masterpiece. He once described the play as an effort to dig “so deep under the skin that it becomes practically intolerable.” Anyone who has witnessed the explosive marriage of George and Martha, either on stage or in the 1966 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, knows how close Albee hit his mark.
Below is an example of the kind of marital bloodsport the work is so famous for — “I swear if you existed I’d divorce you” —
While Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was denied the Pulitzer the year it came out (the 14-member advisory board was split, with some shocked at the language and abusive behavior), Albee did win the award for A Delicate Balance in 1967. “Well, you can’t lose them all,” director Mike Nichols cabled him
Elizabeth Taylor won the Academy Award for the film version, directed by Nichols.
Albee’s plays challenged the way we behave, to our loved ones, the world at large and ourselves. “Most people want tidy, frivolous stuff,” Albee told the Los Angeles Times in 2002, “so they can go home and not worry about what they’ve seen.”
Albee was out, though he rejected the label of “gay writer.”
“Maybe I’m being a little troublesome about this,” Albee told NPR’s Renee Montagne, “but so many writers who are gay are expected to behave like gay writers and I find that is such a limitation and such a prejudicial thing that I fight against it whenever I can.”
“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,” he said, somewhat ironically, while accepting an award for pioneering LGBT writers and publishers.
“I don’t find that much difference between straights and gays in the problems of life,” he told the New York Times in 1994. “I don’t believe in ghettoization.”
Other notable works include The Zoo Story, A Delicate Balance, The Sandbox, The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia, The Lady from Dubuqe and The American Dream.
A legendary, literary giant. Mr. Albee’s works will be around long after we leave this earth. RIP
How sad that there aren’t the throngs of comments on Mr. Albee’s post/passing as are on the various other “look who’s naked now” posts here at Queerty.
It’s sad & telling at the same time.
Condolences to his friends & family on the passing of a literary genius.
The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? was probably the best night I’ve ever had in the theatre. It forced the audience to confront sexual boundaries and taboos. The ending was unforgettable and tragic.
None of the truly great artists restrict themselves to themes defined by identity politics. They all deal with human issues, be they visual artists, literary or theatrical artists.
Like the painter Ellsworth Kelly who passed recently, both were artistic giants who happened to be gay but spoke to us all with their art, and changed art through their practice.
PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID
Damn. One of the deserving Greats. Fucking shamful the fact that the only time hear about these guys get praise or indeed any kind of coverage in the gay media is when they die. The myopia. The hypocrisy.
PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID
only time you’ll hear about these guys is when…
@girldownunder: I agree with you but think you will find that the lack of comments is due to many readers not knowing who he is before seeing this article rather than an indifference to his passing.
I personally don’t know know what to say when someone dies most of the time. Nothing ever really seems appropriate or not cliche or necessary for posting on the Internet.
However he seemed like an intelligent and well spoken with strong opinions which is generally the mark of a worthwhile individual regardless of his many accomplishments. We all have reasons to create, and he had his. RIP and I’ll need to check out more stuff he wrote.
*he seemed intelligent
Several years ago, I saw a production of A Zoo Story at a local theater (in a moderate-size Midwest town).
I was only one of three people in the audience.
I am also unlucky enough that my community does not have a public university, but the net effect is that gay people that I know who are not involved in theater productions have no interest in it and know nothing of it.
I’d like to see some of his newer plays, but I’ll probably have to travel to a large city for that.
Time moves too quickly.
Wow, are most of you guys really that old? You’d almost have to be to remember someone like this.
RIP. I’m always impressed by a gay guy who lived to his 80’s, almost 90’s.
He’s one of my heroes. So inventive, outspoken, and resilient. Even after reaching a trough in his career he didn’t give up, and kept writing. I urge everyone not only to see the film version of *Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?* but to see a live version if you can. It’s even better on stage, though Elizabeth Taylor’s and Richard Burton’s screen performances are unforgettable. I also wish a director would make a screen version of *Three Tall Women,* which is superb and heartbreaking.
@Masc Pride: Wow, are you really gay? “The Goat” is from 2002 – not exactly ancient history.
“Masc Pride” always sounds like the kind of straight guy who hasn’t been to live theater since his 8th grade teacher dragged him to Shakespeare.
Rest in peace.
I got to spend a few hours with Mr. Albee in my early twenties. He was an endlessly vital and inspirational individual, and he was delighted to discuss the Korean boy I was doing at the time.
And an even more hard to take play that folks tend not to mention but is more self exposing called The Goat.
Guess a web only person wrote the story……KNOW I am being smarmy but if you are supposed to be smart BE SMART!
I had to read Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for a Drama class to fill an English requirement. The teacher had arranged for film versions of the different plays we had to read to be shown by the university, and we had to attend. The Burton/Taylor film blew me away. The play itself was the best of the ones we had to read and its film version was the best of the lot. I rewatch the film every chance when it rolls around on TCM.
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