Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolf: Biography
American Playwright Edward Albee was born on March 12, 1928, in Washington, D. C. At the age of two weeks he was adopted by a wealthy couple, Reed and Frances Albee, and named after his adoptive grandfather, Edward Franklin Albee.
Albee spent his childhood in Larchmont, New York, and Florida. He was sent to a boarding school at the age of eleven but was expelled for a poor academic record and bad behavior. After this he attended Valley Forge Military Academy, but he did not fit in there either and was asked to leave. Albee fared better at his next school, the Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, where his teachers encouraged him to cultivate his passion for writing. While at this school, Albee wrote many short stories, poems, and one complete novel. After high school graduation in 1946, Albee attended Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, for a year and a half.
In 1948, Albee left his family home and moved to New York. From 1949 to 1958, he lived in Greenwich Village, living off a trust fund and supplementing that income by doing various odd jobs such as waiter, bartender, office boy, and salesman in a department store and a bookstore. His ambition was to become a writer, however, and in 1958, he wrote a play, The Zoo Story. It was given its first performance in Berlin, Germany, in 1959 and was produced in the United States, at Greenwich Village, the following year. Three other plays followed, The Sandbox, The Death of Bessie Smith, and Farm and Yam, before Albee had his first big success with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which was produced on Broadway, ran for 663 performances and won the Drama Critics’ Award and many other awards. It was not, however, awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the Pulitzer Committee overruled the recommendation of its own panel, declaring that the play did not present a wholesome view of American family life. Such controversies aside, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has been a huge success worldwide and is one of the indispensable works of modern drama. In 1964, the movie rights were sold to Warner Bros. for half a million dollars, a huge sum in those days. The movie was released in 1966, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Since the 1960s, the play has been revived on many occasions, one of the most recent being the 2004-2005 Broadway season.
Following the immense success of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Albee became one of the most admired of contemporary American playwrights.During the 1963-64 theater season, four of his plays ran almost concurrently: in addition to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, there were long-running productions of The Ballad of the Sad Café, The American Dream, and a revival of The Zoo Story.
In 1966, Albee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his play, A Delicate Balance, which like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is a study of family life. Nearly a decade later, in 1975, he was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for his play Seascape, about a retired couple on vacation who meet a pair of anthropomorphic sea lizards at the beach and engage them in discussions about love and relationships.
During the 1980s, Albee’s new work, in plays such as The Lady From Dubuque (1980) and The Man Who Had Three Arms (1983) had only limited success, but in 1994, he again found critical and public favor with Three Tall Women, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Albee’s third, in 1996. Also in 1996, Albee was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Albee’s most recent work includes The Play About the Baby (1998), The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? (2002; winner of the Tony Best Play award), Occupant (2001), Knock, Knock! Who’s There!? (2003) Peter & Jerry (2004) and Me, Myself & I (2007).