Articles and Citations



Edward Albee

Edward Albee was probably not the first angry, young man.  But he was the first angry young man cool-headed enough to write more than twenty-five plays, invent off-Broadway, and win three, count them, three Pulitzer Prizes.

His 1962 play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, not only changed the American Theatre, it changed America itself.  For after that play, America could no longer remain in the state of denial it had sunk into during the 50’s.  Albee was the first playwright to get real, to get political and to get personal all at once.  He was the first to indict Americans for their ambivalence about being Americans, forcing his characters and his audience to confess that they were not what they seemed, that there was a vast and terrible difference between what they were and what they said they were.  Edward Albee warned a whole generation about what happens when you don’t tell the truth.  You don’t think of Edward as the poster boy for the 60’s, as the guy who started the gang who stopped the war, but that’s who he is. 

For this act of courage, American critics practically banished Albee, mid-career, claiming he was finished, or bitter, or whatever they felt like saying at the moment.  But he kept working in Europe, teaching in Texas, and he kept writing, until six years ago, he came roaring back from this exile having written Three Tall Women, ready to begin the next phase of his battle against mediocrity and complacency. 

From Zoo Story in 1959, to this season’s The Play About the Baby, Edward Albee has written with courage and clarity, exploring themes as powerful as race relations, family dynamics, alienation and disillusionment, death and the struggle for coherence in life.  Told once that he had written some very grim plays, Albee answered simply, “Thank you.” 

Edward Albee has questioned every aspect of the American play, from how it should be shaped, to what it should be about, to the theatrical environment in which it should be seen. It may surprise some in the audience to know that Virginia Wolff was NOT one of the plays for which Albee won the Pulitzer Prize.

He almost won it that year, the jury had voted it the winner, but the Pulitzer trustees found the play’s language too “dirty” and overturned the jury’s decision.  Because of Edward’s influence on the American theater, it is safe to say that no contemporary playwright will ever have to suffer that judgement again.  No playwright can ever feel comfortably “finished” again.  Anger and fear and loss are the stuff of the American life, but the nerve to document these things openly is the enduring gift to all of us from Edward Albee. 

Since 1959, he has stood on the front lines shaking his fist at the gods…demanding, among other things, respect for the American dramatist. The acting editions of his work demand that his characters be played by actors of the same sex as the characters.  He further demands that those actors say all the words he has written, no more and no less.  And just lately, he has started demanding that his plays be given enough rehearsal so that they have a chance to work.  The fact that these and other things, like the Dramatists Guild contract, have to be fought for, will surprise none of the writers in the room tonight.  But it is for this fight, carried on with unflagging fury that we salute him tonight. 

For his dedication to artistic freedom, and his lifelong practice of it in the face of opposition, apathy, and acclaim, we the Council of the Dramatists Guild, proudly award this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Edward Albee.