Albee discusses acclaimed works

By Olesya Minina

Contributing Writer

The annual Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary Letters, which was established in 2002, was awarded on Tuesday, March 22. This award recognizes acclaimed individuals who represent the highest level of achievement in the field of writing within the realms of fiction, biography or non-fiction and their personal intellectual insight to the craft.

Edward Albee, who has been referred to as one of the greatest American playwrights of his generation, became the first playwright to receive the award, presented by President Bravman. The award was followed by a reading from some of Albee’s selected works and an engaging conversation lead by professor of theater Gary Grant.

Albee began the evening by reading exerpts from some of his works, which he admitted he enjoys because he gets the chance to present his works as “he heard them for the first time in his own head, without any distortions that may come from actors.”

He has written nearly 30 plays over four decades, mostly contemplating the disillusionment in modern society, often with controversial and startling style, which challenge audiences to question our everyday values and morals. “I enjoyed his readings because he read the works as he originally intended, so I actually started to relate to the character and the story,” said Lena Perminova, a teaching assistant at the University.

Albee is best known for his plays that mix fearless theartricalism and stinging dialogue such as  for “The Zoo Story,” “The American Dream,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “Three Tall Women,” “Seascape,” “A Delicate Balance” and many other powerful plays which have pushed the limits of American theatre and drama.

Albee read from some of his lesser known works incorporating his infamous wit and humor and included an excerpt from a true life experience even though he has “never written himself into a play and invents not merely characters, but the entire lives of the characters.”

“I loved his sense of humor. I enjoyed hearing him read from some of his lesser-known plays, because I had only previously been familiar with ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ After hearing him, I’d really like to read more of his plays, or better yet, see one performed,” Alex Bird ’13 said.

Albee then had an engaging conversation with Professor Grant in which he reminisced the beginning of his career when he finished his first play, “The Zoo Story,” and reacted with “this is a damn good play.” The play ironically took place in Berlin and was in German but was very well received.

He also took the audience through his creative process of writing plays, his inspirations and the challenges that arise with writing plays, such as distortions of the works and legal issues. Albee urged the audience to “participate in being alive” and to step back and evaluate our values and morals.

“I enjoyed hearing the process Albee goes through in writing plays,” Adrianne Ring ’14 said. “For him, the characters come first and the message is discovered later through the interactions of the characters.”

Three of Albee’s plays have received Pulitzer Prizes: “A Delicate Balance” in 1967, “Seascape” in 1975 and “Three Tall Women” in 1994. “Three Tall Women” also won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award. He has also received numerous Tony awards for his plays.

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