Edward Albee, writer of 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?', dead at 88

Widely considered the greatest American playwright of his generation, Albee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama three times

Tim Walker
Saturday 17 September 2016 02:19 BST
Playwright Edward Albee passed away last year
Playwright Edward Albee passed away last year

Edward Albee, the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, has died at his home near New York aged 88. Albee’s most famous work was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the devastating black comedy that went from a Tony Award-winning Broadway hit to an Oscar-winning movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

His personal assistant Jakob Holder confirmed to the Associated Press that Albee had died at his home in Montauk, Long Island on Friday after a brief illness. The writer of more than 25 plays, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama three times – for A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1974) and Three Tall Women (1994) – and, since his predecessor Arthur Miller’s death 11 years ago, had been widely considered America’s greatest living playwright.

Born in Virginia in 1928 and adopted at 18 days old, Albee grew up in Westchester County outside New York. He was expelled from three schools before moving to Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, and wrote his first play The Zoo Story at 30, making his Broadway debut with Virginia Woolf three years later, in 1962.

That play centred on the alcoholic machinations of married academics George and Martha, with Taylor winning an Academy Award for her performance in Mike Nichols’ 1966 movie version. Albee was influenced by the European Absurdists, but his subject matter was American domestic and social dysfunction.

Openly gay since his teens, he lost his long-term partner, sculptor Jonathan Thomas, to bladder cancer in 2005. Several of his plays were thought to be autobiographical, but Albee told an interviewer in 2012 that it was “foolishness on the part of the playwright to write about himself,” adding: “People don’t know anything about themselves."

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