Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright at Dickinson for two-day residency
November 6, 2007
Playwright Edward Albee, the 2007 recipient of The Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program award.
Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, this year's distinguished selection for The Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program, has a body of work that leaves an indelible impression.
But his impact goes far beyond his impressive resumé, said Todd Wronski, professor of theatre. "Meeting someone like this, and realizing the great work that came out of his imagination, encourages the student to ask, 'What possible greatness do I have in me?'"
'Greatest living playwright'
Called "the greatest living playwright" by The New Yorker magazine, Albee's first play, The Zoo Story, about a drifter who acts out his own murder, opened in 1959. He is perhaps best known for his three-act drama, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, hailed for its honest dialog and jarring interpretation of modern relationships. His plays explore the most intimate aspects of our lives and society, from race relations (The Death of Bessie Smith) and family life (A Delicate Balance) to mortality (The Lady from Dubuque) and the blurred line between reality and illusion (Seascape. His other plays include The Sandbox, The American Dream, The Play About the Baby, Three Tall Women, and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
Like many artists, Albee said there are no easy answers to his craft.
"I guess that the majority of my plays concern the fact that I think that people deal with themselves and other people dishonorably," Albee said in an interview with EGG the arts show, a program produced by public television station Thirteen/WNET New York. "They don't live their own lives fully. They coast through. They lie, they're cruel, and they don't think about their responsibilities. I think we're fairly selfish animals and for the most part we don't understand our responsibilities to other people. And the problem for the playwright is most people really do behave that way and they don't want to be reminded."
Albee won Pulitzer Prizes for A Delicate Balance (1966), Seascape (1975) and Three Tall Women (1994). He received two Tony Awards, one for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962) and one for The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (2002).
In 2005, Virginia Woolf returned to Broadway and received six Tony Award nominations, including best play. Albee also received a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre. In 2005, Albee released Stretching My Mind, his first collection of writings on theatre, literature, the visual arts, and the political and cultural backgrounds that have defined our times.
Here are some of the events planned for Albee's residency at Dickinson:
- Sunday, November 18, 8 p.m.
"The State of Theatre and the Arts in America." Lecture to be followed by Q and A and reception. Rubendall Recital Hall, Weiss Center for the Arts.
- Monday, November 19, 9:30 a.m.
Open class. Theatre and Dance Professor Todd Wronski's "Introduction to Theater." Memorial Hall, Old West Building.
- Monday, November 19, 8 p.m.
An Evening with Edward Albee. Anita Tuvin Schlechter (ATS) Auditorium.
"Albee's time here will hopefully deepen our students' appreciation of modern American theatre and inspire them to view theatre as a powerful source for social debate as demonstrated by Albee's life and works," said Karen Kirkham, associate professor of theatre and dance.
The Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program is named in honor of the parents of Jean Louise Stellfox '60. The high-school English teacher from Shamokin, Pa., was so inspired by a visit by poet Robert Frost in 1959 that she left the college most of her $1.5 million estate to carry on her lifelong mission of inspiring students the way she was moved by Frost during his stay at Dickinson. The program makes it possible each year for a major author, poet or playwright to spend a few days on campus, holding readings, literary discussions and workshops for students and the Dickinson community. Previous recipients have included novelist Ian McEwan and poet Rita Dove.