Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee's first full-length play and his first to appear on Broadway, is considered by many to be his greatest dramatic achievement, as well as a central work in the contemporary American theatre. Virginia Woolf focuses on an embittered academic couple who gradually draw a younger couple, freshly arrived from the Midwest, into their vicious games of marital love-hatred. The play is a dramatic bloodsport fought with words rather than weapons—"verbal fencing," wrote Ruby Cohn in Edward Albee, "in the most adroit dialogue ever heard on the American stage." The play premiered October 13, 1962; at New York's Billy Rose Theatre and starred, in the roles of the battling husband and wife, Arthur Hill as George and Uta Hagen as Martha. The acclaimed production ran for 664 performances and led almost immediately to other successful productions throughout the United States and the world; the play has continued to be revived frequently.
Virginia Woolf garnered an impressive collection of awards, including the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, the Foreign Press Association Award, two Antoinette Perry ("Tony'') Awards, the Variety Drama Critics' Poll Award, and the Evening Standard Award. For the play, Albee was additionally selected as the most promising playwright of the 1962-63 Broadway season by the New York Drama Critics' organization. When Albee did not receive the Pulitzer Prize for his widely-acclaimed play because one of the trustees objected to its sexual subject matter, drama advisors John Gassner and John Mason Brown publicly resigned from the jury in protest.