Edward Albee

On this date in 1928, playwright Edward Franklin Albee III was born to Louise Harvey in the District of Columbia and grew up in Larchmont, N.Y., after being given up for adoption when he was 18 days old. His adoptive family was prosperous and owned a chain of theaters. A rebellious teen growing up in a conservative household, Albee was expelled from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., because he failed to attend chapel and classes.

At 20 he moved to New York’s Greenwich Village, where he took odd jobs, such as being a messenger for Western Union, while writing. His first breakthrough play “The Zoo Story” (1959), belonging to the theater of the absurd, was originally produced in Germany.

Albee was awarded three Pulitzer Prizes for his plays “A Delicate Balance” (1966), “Seascape” (1975) and “Three Tall Women” (1994). He won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” It opened on Broadway with Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill as Martha and George and was adapted for the 1966 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. He won a second Best Play Tony in 2002 for “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?”

He told Warren Allen Smith, editor of Who’s Who in Hell (2000), that he was a “nominal Quaker” because he admired their pacifism, and that while he thinks Jesus lived and is interested in his outlook, he did not accept “all that divinity stuff.” (Dec. 10, 1996)

In his 2011 acceptance speech for the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement, Albee said: “A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay.” His longtime partner, sculptor Jonathan Thomas, died in 2005 from bladder cancer. Albee also had relationships with composer William Flanagan and playwright Terrence McNally during the 1950s and early 1960s. Albee died at his home at age 88 in Montauk, N.Y. (D. 2016)

Freedom From Religion Foundation