THE RELEVANT QUEER: Dramatist & Theatrical Producer Edward Albee, Born March 12, 1928

Edward Albee, 1980. Ph: Hans Namuth, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Estate of Hans Namuth

“Any definition which limits us is deplorable.”

TRQ: Edward Albee, Born March 12, 1928

Dramatist and theatrical producer Edward Albee, writer of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, was born in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Choate School in 1946, before going on to Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut.

Albee began his career writing poetry and wrote an unpublished novel, before turning to plays. The Zoo Story (1959), The Sandbox (1959), and The American Dream (1961) are three of Albee’s one-act plays that defined him as a critic of American values. In 1962, he wrote Virginia Woolf, his first full-length play. For this, he won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play. A Delicate Balance followed four years later, and won the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Albee also won Pulitzer’s for Seascape in 1975 and Three Tall Women in 1994. In 1996, he won the National Medal of Arts. After winning another Tony in 2002 for The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, Albee won the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005.

Albee was openly gay. During the 1950’s, he was in a relationship with playwright Terrence McNally. Then in 1971, he began a long-term relationship with sculptor Jonathan Richard Thomas that lasted until Thomas’ death in 2005. However, in his 2011 acceptance speechfor the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement, Albee caused some controversy when insisting that “I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay.” He explained to the audience that, “A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self.”

In an NPR interview Albee says, “Maybe I’m being a little troublesome about this… but so many writers who are gay are expected to behave like gay writers and I find that is such a limitation and such a prejudicial thing that I fight against it whenever I can.”

Albee died on September 16, 2016 at his home in Montauk, NY. He had written a note that he stipulated should only be opened at the time of his death. It read,

To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love.”





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