Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Edward Albee

From the Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of playwright Edward Albee born in 1928. He worked a series of odd jobs including selling music and books, working as an office assistant and a hotel barman, and then his favorite job: a Western Union messenger, about which he said, "It kept you out in the air and it was a nice job because it could never possibly become a career."

During this time, he frequently attended modern art exhibitions, concerts, and plays in New York City and, inspired by the emerging Theatre of the Absurd, he quit his job and in three weeks wrote The Zoo Story (1958), a one-act, two-man play about strangers who meet in Central Park. It was at first rejected by New York producers, premiered in Germany, and then staged the next year in New York's Greenwich Village.

He wrote a few more one act plays and then his first full-length play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), the work for which he is best known. The title is taken from graffiti he saw on a mirror at a New York bar. In its first season, the play's profanity shocked some audience members, and one critic called it an "exercise in depraved obscenity," but it was largely popular with critics and audiences, ran for 644 performances, and won many awards. A film version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton came out in 1966.

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