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Edward Albee: Avant-garde
[ Issue 149 Page 12 ] Thursday, November 24, 2016, 00:25:01 Sang-Wook Ha Staff Reporter ha.sangwook@kaist.ac.kr
   
Edward Albee ( 1928 - 2016)

Without the cause of death being given, it was reported that Edward Franklin Albee III, the prominent US playwright and three- times winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, has left the stage on September 16 at Montauk, New York. Since the emergence of American theater into worldwide prominence after World War II through the writings of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee was one who had followed the footsteps of those American greats.

Passing away at the age of 88, Albee has had a major surgery two years before. Albee was born in 1928 but was quickly placed for adoption. He was adopted by Reed A. Albee, son of the vaudeville proprietor Edward Franklin Albee II. Albee’s life as a student was dynamic at the very least, attending four different high schools and getting expelled or dismissed from two. He went on to read at Trinity College, Connecticut, but was expelled for not attending compulsory chapel classes. With his adoptive parent wanting him to pursue business rather than writing, Albee left his parents and wrote his first play, “The Zoo Story”. <\p>

Edward Albee’s career has been decorated with numerous awards. “A Delicate Balance” (1967), “Seascape” (1975), and “Three Tall Women” (1994) were awarded with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His landmark play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” was selected for the Pulitzer Prize in 1963, but that year the committee had decided to award no drama prize at all. This was due to the work being considered to not uphold traditional “American virtues” and having too much profanity in its themes. In 1972, Albee became a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was accepted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1985. Few of the many other awards he received are the Golden Letter for Drama by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, an honorary degree from the Bulgarian National Academy of Theater and Film Arts (NAFTA), the Kennedy Center Honors, and the National Medal of Arts.

Edward Albee was a man of many facets. He was also known to rarely smile in his photographs. This was attributed to his bleak and critical personality but later was found to be simply because he had bad teeth. The Houston Press described him as “wickedly bitchy, elegant in form, deep in thought, mischievous and provoking.” The Time calls him “the last of a group of legendary playwrights who essentially defined American drama.” His works were not easy to interpret and often found unacceptable by critics who had endured with vexing contemporary playwrights Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. This was one of the reasons for his late gain in popularity among the American public.

Albee is often quoted for his witty replies or insightful words in plays such as “You gotta have swine to show you where the truffles are,” “The gods too are fond of a joke,” and “What I mean by an educated taste is someone who has the same tastes that I have.”

Albee never stopped writing, premiering his last play “Me, Myself and I” in 2008. Being also the founder of the Edward F. Albee Foundation, Inc. he also had supported the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center also known as “The Barn”. He devoted himself not only to his work but also to the well-being of writers around the world, being a leader of the PEN American Center. He was often seen defending artists in need. He was also “always the kindest” with young writers, painters, and artists in need of encouragement.

Having somewhat foreseen his death several years ago when his health had deteriorated rapidly, he left a note saying, “To all of you who made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love.”

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