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Edward Albee, Prolific Playwright of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Has Died

The dramatist was 88 years old.

Edward Albee takes his bow alongside director Pam MacKinnon on the opening night of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Booth Theatre in 2012.
(© Tristan Fuge)

Edward Albee, the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the plays Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance, died on Friday, September 16, at his home in Montauk, Long Island, at the age of 88.

Born March 12, 1928, Albee was the adopted son of theater owner Reed A. Albee and Frances Cotter-Albee, Reed's third wife. As a young man, the future author had a shaky academic history, getting expelled from both the Lawrenceville School, the Valley Forge Military Academy, and Trinity College. He left home in his late teens and moved to Greenwich Village, where he did odd jobs while beginning his career as a dramatist.

As an author, Albee helped Americanize the European Theater of the Absurd, embracing both existentialism and metaphysical elements. In 1958, he completed his first play, a one-act titled The Zoo Story, which made its New York debut in 1960, on a double bill at the Provincetown Playhouse with Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape. Running 582 performances, Albee took home Obie and Drama Desk Awards. He made his Broadway debut in 1962, with the landmark, Tony-winning Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and followed that up with an extensive list of plays that includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975), and Three Tall Women (1994). In 2002, he premiered his last new Broadway play, the Tony-winning The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

The 2000s saw a pair of major Broadway revivals of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The first, in 2005, starred Kathleen Turner and a Tony-winning Bill Irwin, and the second, in 2012, featured Amy Morton and Tracy Letts and took home another Best Leading Actor Tony and the prize for Best Revival. Seascape, starring Frances Sternhagen and George Grizzard, was revived in 2005, and A Delicate Balance, with Glenn Close and John Lithgow, was revived in 2014. Off-Broadway, he was well-represented at Signature Theatre Company with revivals of his plays Occupant and The Lady From Dubuque, and premieres of Me, Myself & I at Playwrights Horizons in 2010, as well as a prequel to The Zoo Story in 2007 at Second Stage Theatre, presented as Peter and Jerry. Most recently, his play The Sandbox was revived at Signature in a triple bill titled Signature Plays.

For several years, Albee had been working on his latest play, Laying an Egg, which was to be presented at Signature. He is predeceased by his longtime partner, sculptor Jonathan Thomas.

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