Edward Albee
Lecture Date: 2-8-1995
Click the link below to listen ot his celebrity's lecture:
Interview: Playwright Edward Albee is introduced by Dean John Eadie and Professor Joyce Ramsay of Michigan State University. Ramsay praises Albee as “the most important American playwright who is writing today” while enumerating the playwright's many works and awards. Edward Albee begins his lecture by talking about his chaotic education that eventually led him to become a playwright. His rebellion against formal education stemmed from his surety, at the age of eight, that he was a writer and did not need the kind of education that formal institutions offered. Edward Albee recollects the end of his career writing poetry, novels, short stories, and essays before he eventually stumbled upon play writing. He discusses the struggles of being a creative artist in modern America and laments the declining interest in the arts along with the fact that Republicans are trying to destroy the National Endowment for the Arts. Albee describes his journey to the Soviet Union, his experiences with the dissident artists who shaped its artistic culture, and the censorship of art that was present there at that time. Albee argues that the United States is approaching this state of "semantic collapse" in the arts. Censorship, even self-censorship, is extremely destructive to our culture. He stresses the importance of supporting the arts and appreciating them. It is our right to express ourselves in the United States. Albee's humorous theory on the development of art is that human beings’ tails fell off and we grew art in their place. He challenges the audience to use art to make the world into a more valuable place. In response to a question posed by the audience, Albee gives reasons why his works may or may not be considered part of the “theatre of the absurd” genre. He explains that his plays are never autobiographical, although he gives each of the characters a piece of himself. The playwright returns to the issue of the arts in our society and the difficulty of participating in them. For this reason, Albee deters young aspiring playwrights from such a profession unless they will be incomplete without this craft. Albee discusses the lack of real drama in commercial theater. He clarifies his reasons for writing plays and defends his writing style. The lecture finishes by discussing the misconceptions that people have about the National Endowment of the Arts.
Biography: Edward Albee (1928- ), an American dramatist born in Washington, D.C., has been one of the foremost playwrights of his day, whose work initiated a new theatrical movement in America. His ground-breaking plays are an indictment of American society, which he examines from an absurdist perspective. Well-known early plays include The Zoo Story (1959) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962), and he has won Pulitzer Prizes for A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975), and Three Tall Women (1994). As Albee describes it, his work represents “a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen.”