New York | Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, who challenged theatrical convention in masterworks such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “A Delicate Balance,” has died, his personal assistant said.He was 88.
He died yesterday at his home in Montauk, east of New York, assistant Jackob Holder said. No cause of death was immediately given, although he had suffered from diabetes.
With the deaths of Arthur Miller and August Wilson in 2005, he was arguably America’s greatest living playwright.
Several years ago, before undergoing extensive surgery, Albee penned a note to be issued at the time of his death: “To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love.”
Albee was proclaimed the playwright of his generation after his blistering “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opened on Broadway in 1962. The Tony-winning play, still widely considered Albee’s finest, was made into an award-winning 1966 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
The play’s sharp-tongued humour and dark themes were the hallmarks of Albee’s style. In more than 30 plays, Albee skewered such mainstays of American culture as marriage, child-rearing, religion and upper-class comforts.
“If you have no wounds, how can you know you’re alive?” a character asks in Albee’s 1996 “The Play About the Baby.” “It’s just a quirk of the brain that makes one a playwright,” Albee said in 2008. “I have the same experiences that everybody else does, but… I feel the need to translate a lot of what happens to me, a lot of what I think, into a play.”
Albee challenged audiences to question their assumptions about society and about theatre itself. He did it with humour and a sense of linguistic delight, using withering barbs and word play to hint at deeper meaning.
His unconventional style won him great acclaim but also led to a nearly 20-year drought of critical and commercial recognition before his 1994 play, “Three Tall Women,” garnered his third Pulitzer Prize. His other Pulitzers were for “A Delicate Balance” (1967) and “Seascape” (1975).
Many of his productions in the years after “Seascape” were savaged by the press as inconsequential trickery, a shadow of his former works. But after “Three Tall Women,” a play he called an “exorcising of demons,” he had several major productions, including “The Play About the Baby” and “The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?” which won him his second Tony for best play in 2002.