Edward Albee Additional Biography


(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Early Life

Edward Franklin Albee was adopted when he was two weeks old by the prosperous Reed Albee, an active partner in the Keith-Albee chain of vaudeville houses, and Frances Albee, a former fashion model. Albee, something of a problem child, attended a procession of private schools, finally being graduated from Choate in 1946. He enrolled in Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and attended it for three semesters. He became a Western Union messenger in New York, where Thornton Wilder, whom he had met while a student at the Lawrenceville School where Wilder taught, encouraged him in his writing career. During this period, he came to know W. H. Auden, who also supported his writing efforts.

The 1960’s

Albee published and produced his absurdist play, The Zoo Story, in 1959. The Death of Bessie Smith, The Sandbox, and Fam and Yam were all produced in 1960, followed in 1961 by The American Dream and Albee and James Hinton, Jr.’s libretto for Bartleby, based on Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener.”

Albee’s greatest triumph in the 1960’s, however, was the production in 1962 of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a dazzling play that questions many of America’s most cherished values and traditions, such as beliefs about the family and the child-parent relationship. The play received the Drama Critics Circle Award and the Tony Award for best play of the year. The drama jury awarded it the Pulitzer Prize, but its vote was overturned by the advisory board of Columbia University, which administers the Pulitzer Prize, because of the play’s strong language and general iconoclasm. This decision caused John Mason Brown and John Gassner to resign from the drama jury.

Ironically, Albee subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize for A Delicate Balance (produced 1966, published 1967), although the play was not equal to the standard Albee had set in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, one of the most thought-provoking and insightful plays of the twentieth century.

In one decade, Albee saw eleven of his plays produced professionally, including, besides those already mentioned, The Ballad of the Sad Café (pr., pb. 1963), based on Carson McCuller’s novel; Tiny Alice(pr. 1964, pb. 1965), a play in which a church barters a soul for a donation; Malcolm (pr., pb. 1966), adapted from James Purdy’s novel; Everything in the Garden (pr. 1967, pb. 1968), based on Giles Cooper’s play; and Box and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (pr. 1968; pb. 1969).

Later Life

Although his productivity peaked in the 1960’s, Albee continued to write plays in the years that followed. His Seascape (pr., pb. 1975) and Three Tall Women (pr. 1990, pb. 1991), a play of considerable substance, both received Pulitzer Prizes.


Albee, with plays such as The Sandbox, The Zoo Story, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, altered the course of American theater by applying elements of absurdist theater, such as brutal, almost sadistic dialog and frequent non sequiturs, to plays that had broad public appeal. Albee also contributed significantly to the training of future...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Born on March 12, 1928, Edward Franklin Albee was adopted at the age of two weeks by the socially prominent and wealthy New Yorkers Reed and Frances Albee. His adoptive father was the scion of the family who owned the Keith-Albee chain of vaudeville houses; his adoptive mother was a former Bergdorf high-fashion model. Albee’s deep-seated resentment of the natural parents who abandoned him finds reflection in the child motifs that pervade both his original plays and his adaptations: the orphan in The Zoo Story and The Ballad of the Sad Café, the mutilated twin in The American Dream, the intensely hoped-for child who is never conceived and the conceived child who is unwanted in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the dead son in A Delicate Balance, the child in search of his father in Malcolm, the prodigal son detested by a haughty mother in Three Tall Women, and the apparently kidnapped child in The Play About the Baby.

Living with the Albees was Edward’s maternal grandmother, Grandma Cotta, whom he revered and would later memorialize in The Sandbox and The American Dream. After his primary education at the Rye Country Day School, Albee attended a succession of prep schools (Lawrenceville School for Boys, Valley Forge Military Academy), finally graduating from Choate in 1946 before enrolling at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he studied for a year and a half. While in high school, he wrote both poetry and plays.

In 1953, Albee was living in Greenwich Village and working at a variety of odd jobs when, with the encouragement of Thornton Wilder, he committed himself to the theater. The Zoo Story, written in only two weeks, premiered in Berlin on September 28, 1959; when it opened Off-Broadway at the Provincetown Playhouse on a double bill...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Few American playwrights have revealed an anger as sharp and sustained as that of Edward Albee (AL-bee) or have imposed such great emotional demands on audiences. When he is compared with such contemporary absurdist playwrights as Jack Gelber, Jack Richardson, Kenneth Brown, and Arthur Kopit, Albee is generally shown to be the most challenging and searching among them. His particular talent lies in writing plays in which human emotions alternate drastically at such breakneck speed that audiences, emotionally drained by what they experience, nevertheless emerge with a renewed vision of human relationships, though self-knowledge remains elusive.

Edward Franklin Albee was born somewhere in Virginia and, before he was two...

(The entire section is 837 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Edward Albee was born on March 12, 1928, in Washington, DC, where he was given the name Edward Franklin Albee III by Reed and Francis Albee,...

(The entire section is 597 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Edward Franklin Albee was born March 12, 1928, probably in the state of Virginia. His place of birth is unknown because Albee was adopted...

(The entire section is 520 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Edward Albee was born in 1928 somewhere in Virginia. Two weeks after his birth, Reed and Frances Albee, who lived in Larchmont, New York,...

(The entire section is 507 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Edward Albee was adopted in Washington, D.C., two weeks after his birth on March 12, 1928, by Reed A. Albee (who, after retiring from his...

(The entire section is 708 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Edward Albee Published by Gale Cengage

Born in 1928, Albee was adopted by Reed and Frances Albee, a wealthy couple involved in the theater. He was a precocious writer, composing...

(The entire section is 389 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Edward Albee at Boston's Colonial Theatre Published by Gale Cengage

Edward Albee, numbered among the United States's most acclaimed and controversial playwrights, was born March 12, 1928. As the adopted son of...

(The entire section is 515 words.)