Edward Franklin Albee III (born March 12, 1928) is an American playwright known for works including WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, THE ZOO STORY, and THE SANDBOX. His works are considered well-crafted and often unsympathetic examinations of the modern condition. His early works reflect a mastery and Americanization of the Absurdism that found its peak in works by European playwrights such as Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, and Eugène Ionesco. Younger American playwrights, such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel, credit Albee’s daring mix of theatricality and biting dialogue with helping to reinvent post-war American theatre in the early 1960s.
Albee’s dedication to evolving his voice – as evidenced in later productions such as THE GOAT OR WHO IS SYLVIA? (2000) – also routinely marks him as distinct from other American playwrights of his era.
Edward Albee was born in Washington, DC and was adopted two weeks later and taken to Westchester County, New York. Albee’s adoptive father, Reed A. Albee, himself the son of vaudeville magnate Edward Franklin Albee II, owned several theatres, where Edward first gained familiarity with the theatre as a child. His mother was Reed’s third wife, Frances. Albee left home when he was in his late teens, later saying in an interview, “They weren’t very good at being parents, and I wasn’t very good at being a son.” He attended the Rye Country Day School, then the Lawrenceville School, where he was expelled. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania in 1943 and graduated in 1945 at the age of 17. He studied at Choate Rosemary Hall and graduated in 1946, then attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut for a year and a half before being expelled for skipping classes and refusing to attend compulsory chapel in 1947. He lastly attended Columbia University in 1949. Perhaps ironically, the less than diligent student later dedicated much of his time to promoting American university theatre, frequently speaking at campuses and serving as a distinguished professor at the University of Houston from 1989 to 2003.
A member of the Dramatists Guild Council, Albee has received three Pulitzer Prizes for drama — for A DELICATE BALANCE (1967), SEASCAPE (1974), THREE TALL WOMEN (1990-1991); a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement (2005); the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1980); as well as the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts (both in 1996