Mirror, Mirror: The American Family in the Twentieth Century

Edward Albee  (1928 -  )

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf


  • Adopted from a Washington, DC foundling home as a two-week-old infant by Reed and Frances Albee, the heirs to a celebrated vaudeville fortune (the Keith-Albee Theater Circuit); named Edward Franklin Albee III.
  • Rather unenthusiastically attended varioius private schools, including Lawrenceville prepatory school, Valley Forge Military Academy, and Choate; attended Trinity College briefly (1946-47).
  • Left for New York in 1950 where he worked at odd jobs (office boy, counterman, record salesman, Western Union messenger) for a decade while he concentrated on writing; shared extremely modest living arrangements for nine years with a young composer, William Flanagan.
  • Even in his school years, often wrote eighteen hours a day; his early work, poetry and fiction, wrote his first play, The Zoo Story, at twenty-nine.


  • Produced, and directed plays with Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder for the New Playwrights Unit Workshop, 1963- .
  • Directed a touring retrospective of his one-act plays, Albee Directs Albee, 1978-79.
  • Co-director of Vivian Beaumont Theatre at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, 1979-81.
  • Founder of the William Flanagan Center for Creative Persons in Montauk, New York.
  • Cultural exchange visitor to USSR and Latin America for the U.S. State Department.
  • Lectured at colleges like Brandeis, Johns Hopkins, and Webster; instructor/artist in residence at University of Houston.
  • Won three Pulitzer Prizes for A Delicate Balance, Seascape, and Three Tall Women; the two drama advisors on the Pulitzer Committee resigned their posts after their recommendation to award the prize to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was ignored.
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? received two Tony Awards and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award in 1963; play ran for nearly two years in New York; was made into a successful movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as Martha and George.
  • Received a Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996, and a National Medal of the Arts, 1997.

Major Writings

The Zoo Story, 1959
The Death of Bessie Smith, 1960
The Sandbox: Three Plays
, 1960
Fam and Yam, 1960
The American Dream, 1961
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1962
The Ballad of the Sad Café
, adapted from the Carson McCullers novella, 1962
Tiny Alice, 1964
A Delicate Balance, 1966
Breakfast at Tiffany's [musical adaptation of story by James Purdy), 1966
Everything in the Garden
[based on a play by Giles Cooper], 1967
Box [and] Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, 1968
All Over, 1971
Seascape, 1975
The Lady from Dubuque, 1980
Lolita {adaption of the Nabakov novel), 1981
The Man Who Had Three Arms, 1982
Three Tall Women, 1995

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volumes 5-8, Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volumes 8, 54 and 74; and Contemporary Literary Criticism, 1-3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 25, 53, 86, and 113  Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online and Contemporary Literary Criticism Online) can be accessed through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com. Contemporary Literary Criticism Select (i.e., online) now contains the full text of critical arcticles relating to an author.

    Other Gale publications that include Albee materials include Authors in the News, Volume 1; Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volumes 4 and 14; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 7: Twentieth Century American Dramatists; Dictionary of Twentieth Century Culture, Volume 1; Drama Criticism, Volume 11; Major Twentieth-Century Writers. 5 vols.

  • Print resources
    • C.W.E. Bigsby, Albee, 1969. Also, ed., Edward Albee: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1975.
    • Harold Bloom, editor, Edward Albee, 1987.
    • Harold Clurman, Review of Virginia Woolf, Nation, October 27, 1962, 273-274.
    • Ruby Cohn, Edward Albee, 1969.
    • Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, 1969.
    • Denise Dick Herr, "The Topher at New Carthage: Setting in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," English Lanugage Notes, Volume 33, No. 1 (September 1995), 63-71.
    • Allen Lewis, American Plays and Playwrights of the Contemporary Theatre, 1965.
    • Philip C. Kolin, ed. Conversations with Edward Albee, 1988.
    • Frederick Lumley, New Trends in Twentieth Century Drama, 1972.
    • Michael E. Rutenberg, Edward Albee: Playwright in Protest, 1969.
    • Julian Wasserman, ed. Edward Albee: An Interview and Essays, 1983
    • Gerald Weales, The Jumping Off Place: American Drama in the 1960s, 1969.
  • The following print resources are available online through Contemporary Literary Criticism Select (can be accessed through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com):

    Rachel Blau Duplessis, "In the Bosom of the Family: Contradiction and Resolution in Edward Albee," in Minnesota Review Srping 1977, 133-145.

    Gareth Lloyd Evans,"American connections--O'Neill, Miller, Williams, and Albee," in The Language of Modern Drama, 1977, 177-204.

    Robert Brustein, "Albee and the Medusa Head," in New Republic, Volume 147. No. 18, November 3, 1962, 29-30/

    Katharine Worth, "Edward Albee: Playwright of Evolution," in Essays on Contemporary American Drama, ed. Hedwig Block and Albert Wertheim, 1981, 33-53.

    Edward Albee with Jeffrey Goldman, "An Interview with Edward Albee," in Studies in American Drama, 1945-present, Volume 6, No. 1, 1991, 59-69.

    James Campbell, "The Habit and the Hatred," in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4880, October 11, 1996, 23.

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