Edward Albee was born on the 12th day of March 1928 in Washington D.C. Virginia. A rich family that owned theatres in Larchmont, New York, adopted him at the earliest stages of his life.
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His adoptive parents, Reed, A. Albee and Frances Cotter Albee got a son who was two weeks and little did they know that he would grow up to create a name for himself. He grew up in a wealthy family since the grandfather Edward Franklin Albee II was the chain owner of vaudeville theatres and the maternal grandmother set up a trust fund before her death that supported her grandson later in life.
Information about his biological parents is not known and through out his life, Albee did not waste a single minute mulling over his loss besides the fact that he knew he had been adopted at an early age (Horn, 3). This work will discuss Edward Albee in the context of his achievements when examined under the emergence of absurd theatre.
Albee’s life in the theatre was cut out since adoption into a family oriented in theatrical productions. His background was supposed to be influenced by the wealthy lives of his family and more so the constant admonition by his mother in regard to moral standings and as a privileged member of the society.
He however held different ideas contrary to his mother and thus he was unhappy in his adopted parents’ family. Driven by these conflicts and loneness, he could spend hours at night by penning stories and poems that lightened his emotional burdens.
His later day inclinations to the kind of his drama started from these early conflicts with his mother. His first play the Aliqueen in 1943-44 depicted a sexual farce of passengers aboard an ocean liner; a work Albee had composed due to loneness, only to be thrown by his mother, Frances since according to her it fell below the family expectations (Horn, 6).
As such, this acted like a catapult to his writing genius as now his life as a young man changed and centered against what his mother wanted and thus he revolted in all ways and hence the re-emergence of the absurd theatre in America.
America in the 1950s, 60s and 70s was in a stage that necessitated a change in regard to this movement in theatre. The theater had clearly gotten tired of the mainstream works of arts and therefore was at a stagnated stage both in respect to originality and creativity and therefore when Albee burst into the scene as a young graduate of Choate and Trinity College sighs of relief reverberated in the auditorium of the theatre (Albee, 2).
Edward Albee thus by the time cleared Choate School and then joined Wallingford CT, he had attracted theatre attention by having scripted and published nine poems, eleven short stories, essays, a long act play named Schism and a 500 page novel, The Flesh of Unbelievers (Horn, 1) in 1946. After clearing school, he worked as a messenger, an actor, a playwright, a salesman, a clerk, a counterman and an author in Greenwich Village as well as in the radio as a programmer.
These odd jobs as described in his works define a character that sought to find its home place and to take the bull by its horns. It clearly showed that Albee had a motive to understand or explore the world as best as he could and thus probably build up experiences that he relied on later to write his works.
The American absurd theatre is void without mentioning Edward Albee as a great mark in its definitions. Absurd theatre traces its background before Albee’s debut in 70s, in early Europe where playwrights like Ibsen took the center stage.
By the 70s and 80s, America came face-to-face first hand with absurd theatre from Albee’s works just when Becketts Krapp’s Last Tape of Germany premiered in America. Like other playwrights, Ionesco, Pinter, Genet, and theatre critics the basic elements of absurdity bordered nonsense, surreal things, and reversal of things from the normal standard acceptance.
Edward Albee devoted his energy, life and career to this movement that could define him and care for his needs. In this theater, as Esslin (100) puts, depictions on the stage are explainable from the point of view of an idiot’s perspective since the laws of probability, physics, and natural occurrence as highly reversed. The aspects of time and place in the performance of absurd theatre is not known and the movements, actions and words keep on changing from reality, dream and to myths (Esslin, 100).
In his interviews, Edward Albee mentions that he was influenced by writers like Genet, Ionesco, Beckett, Brecht, Pinter and Williams. He confesses that Tennessee Wiliams work especially the Suddenly Last Summer play presented a theatrical experience, which sparked ideas and the love for theatre (Albee, 8).
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Celebrated as the father of modern movement of absurd theatre in America, Albee has contributed largely in the absurd theatre and main stream theatre both in scripting, editing, production, teaching and stage directing. According to Esslin (104), every absurd playwright has his own style of parodying the avant-garde movement but in essence they subscribe to the same depiction of loneliness of man as well as repeated and nonsensical roles of the daily happenings.
In his work of arts which are mainly based in absurd theatre, Edward Albee owes to his credit a number of absurd plays, the Zoo story, the American Dream, the Sandbox, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, the Death of Bessie Smith, Fam and Yam and other literary works.
The Zoo story as his first recognized work premiered in Schiller Theatre Werkstatt in Berlin after visiting above ten cities in 1959 which led to the Berlin Festival Award. Later in 1960, he won the Vernon Rice Memorial Award and Obie award in Greenwich, New York after the Zoo Story opened in Provincetown playhouse in 1960 (Bloom, 29).
The American Dream premiered in Yorkhouse Playhouse in New York the same time just as Bartleby in 1961. These plays allowed Albee to win the Lola D” annunzio Award in recognition of his contribution to original play writing especially for “American Dream” and “Death of Bessie Smith”.
The two plays also won him the Foreign Press Award and later the Argentine Critics Award for the Zoo Story. The Fulbright Fellowship to Wurzburg University in Germany in 1961 crowned the efforts and creativity genius of Edward Albee, a boy brought up by adoptive parents.
He received a nomination Pulitzer Prize award for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, won a Pulitzer Prize for Three Tall Women in 1994, A Delicate Balance in 1966 and Seascape in 1975 as well as Best play and New York Drama Critics Circle and Outer Critics Circle awards. He also won the Tony award in 1964 for the play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf (Kolin, 19).
As a theatric, Edward Albee in company with Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder founded Albarwild Theatre arts, Inc., a unit that focused on shaping the future of theatre. The organization mentored and assisted young writers in the objectives of bringing general success to the American theatre.
The playwrights who benefitted were Guare, Baraka, Sam Shepard, McNally, Langford and others who helped to make plays into films in his later organization, the Albar Productions. His relationship with other writers as well as the press reveal a humble, self confident and a creative playwright who contributed immensely to American absurd drama contrary to his wealthy family upbringing characterized by the support he got from his grandmother’s trust foundation.
He had established himself as a writer, actor, playwright, director, and tutor of drama and other literary materials. Having chaired many commissions on theatre, received many awards and honors from different colleges in Europe and America as well as President of Theatre and Drama in United States position him as the most regarded playwright of the 1960s re- emergence of absurd theatre and its direction to modern surges (Oakes, 8).
Further, the use of witty language, mastery of syntax, idioms and their usage in the most creative of forms emphasize his relevance in modern study of drama in America (Wilmeth and Bigsby, 335).
It is not possible to study drama without mentioning his original creation of a style that did not conform to traditions yet went highly to be received and greatly appreciated by fellow artists. His role in shaping future generations of playwrights through physical, mental, material and knowledge base support confirm a character devoted purely to the success of his baby (Hayman, 11).
By restructuring the modern perspectives of absurd drama and by giving it a new sense of realism that clearly depicted the daily human experiences captured in the works of arts as well as giving new directions through stage, experimental concepts Edward Albee remain a giant in modern literary discussions (Hisrchman, 58). The fact that he overcame his troubled unhappy life to achieve these heights means a lot to theatre discussions and study (Gussow, 665).
Albee, Edward. Conversations with Edward Albee: Literary Conversations Series. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1988. Print.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Edward Albee. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Print.
Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of The Absurd. Victoria: Taylor & Francis, 1980. Print.
Flanagan, William. “Edward Albee: The Art of the Theatre.” The Paris Review 39 (Fall 1966): 92- 121.
Gussow, Mel. Edward Albee: A Singular Journey: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Print.
Hayman, Ronald. Edward Albee. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1973. Print
Hisrch, Foster. Who’s Afraid of Edward Albee? Berkeley, California: Creative Arts Book Company, 1978. Print.
Horn, B., Lee. Edward Albee: A Research and Production Source Book. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print.
Kolin, Philip C.,ed. Conversations with Edward Albee. Jackson, University Press of Mississipi, 1998. Print.
Oakes, H., Elizabeth, American Writers. California: Infobase Publishing, 2004. Print.
Wilmeth, Don B., & C. Bigsby. The Cambridge History of American Theatre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print.