“What I mean by an educated taste is someone who has the same tastes that I have.” –Edward Albee
Pulitzer Prize-winning gay playwright Edward Albee, whose masterwork was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? died two days ago at the age of 88.
Arguably America’s greatest living playwright, Albee penned a note years ago before undergoing surgery to be issued at the time of his death:
“To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love.”
He had many friends in and out of the theater, writing and LGBT community and I collected a few personal stories from those who knew and loved him or just admired him from afar.
“In 1996, I had emergency open heart surgery. I was in my hospital room overlooking the east river. Edward Albee showed up one day to chat. He just showed up and sat down and spent a few hours. He was always kind to me. We were neighbors for a long time. Seeing him on the street always made me happy. His eyes shined, wicked beacons, his sly, very sly smile parted and he would utter something bone dry about the state of the world. And in his third act, the man wrote The Goat. A young man’s play written by an old lion. Where do they all go, the gods, goddesses and lions of the theatre?” – Robbie Baitz
“I used to see Mr. Albee at the gym or on the subway. He was very approachable, although one might not think so at first. Last time I saw him he told me about the complaint in his wrist (or thumb?) that was affecting his writing. He was very devoted to the gym for many years.” –John Epperson, (Lypsinka)
“Yesterday I read of Edward Albee’s death. I never met Mr. Albee – I was too intimidated. But I devoured his plays, and I was consistently delighted by both how staggeringly brilliant, and how hilarious they were. Albee and Jack Hoffsis were both devoted to the enduring glory of theater, despite every possible obstacle. Such amazing people.” –Paul Rudnick
“Edward Albee was a giant in my life as a young gay man. I remember staying up late to watch Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf while I was in high school and then was lucky to hear him speak at Cornell in the late 1970’s . He was not only a brilliant playwright but a proud out gay man at a time when there were so very few. Thank you, Edward for helping this scared gay kid from Bay Village OH grow up into a proud gay man.” –David Stewart
“Edward Albee. I met him and his late partner J.T. [Jonathan Thomas] in the late 80s in Montauk. I have great memories of the Christmas parties they used to throw in their art filled Tribeca loft (for example, a hilarious episode where a drunk Elaine Stritch steals a jar of mustard from his refrigerator). Edward could, like me, be very aloof, but we shared a bond over personal histories that were almost identical in some respects. He offered great wisdom over the years, and helped me put my personal struggle to understand myself, as an adopted child adrift in the world, in perspective. Never live in fear. Pursue things greater than yourself. Failure in the effort to accomplish something meaningul is better than making no effort at all. Don’t suffer fools, and don’t keep them in your life either. And much more. RIP, Edward. And thank you. I hope you and J.T. have found each other again.” –Fraser Mooney
“A great artist who redefined what American theater could talk about and how that conversation could be held.” – Harvey Fierstein
“I think it must have been in 1963 that I first noticed this dark, brooding, handsome young man in a gay bar on Bleecker Street near the corner of Sullivan.
I was way too shy to approach him so I just observed him. Soon a blond younger man joined him. They talked animatedly. I thought they were arguing. I tried to approach them, but wasn’t able to get close enough to overhear.
A year later I discovered that the younger man was Terrence McNally. He was a classmate of John Corigliano‘s who was then an undergrad at Columbia whom I was dating. They were all involved in the theatre, which bored me, as I was a poet majoring in Latin and Greek at City College.
A long time afterward I saw a picture of Edward Albee on the back of one of his books. It was the brooding man from the gay bar on Bleecker Street.
I remained too shy to talk to Edward until I had a play on Broadway, when I discovered how kind he was to me and other playwrights. His courtly manners seemed then to mask his shyness.
I’ll never forget Three Tall Women, a play that defied pigeonholing and was a deep, fascinating portrait of a family, his family, our family.
Rest in peace, you brilliant playwright and wonderful man…” –William M. Hoffman
“Something Tennessee Williams told me, and something worth knowing and remembering: In the years that Tennessee was regularly vivisected by theatre critics and academics (which is to say, the last twenty years of his life), only one writer came to his side and his defense: Edward Albee. Edward was a constant, and Tennessee said they had waved at each other across some rocky seas. Edward was a great playwright, but he was also a great friend.” –James Grissom
“Edward Albee is dead. I saw his darkness, which was vast and intimidating. I saw his kindness too, which was quiet and unassuming. And I can tell you, in the end, his kindness won.” – John Patrick Shanley