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Pulitzer-winning playwright Edward Albee, who penned several pivotal American plays including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, died Friday at the age of 88 in his home in Montauk, New York. Born in Washington D.C. in 1928, Albee grew up in a household with adoptive parents who, he said, disapproved of his dream of becoming a writer; it was when he moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village that he learned the art of playwriting.
Starting in the 1950s, Albee, via his avant-garde approach and the hyperrealism and surrealism existent in his plays, influenced American theatre as much as predecessors such as Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams.
Despite it receiving a Tony Award and several other prizes, Virginia Woolf? controversially was deemed by the Pulitzer board to be a violation of their charter, which stated that the winning play must reflect “American values.” However, Albee’s lack of a Pulitzer for this play did not stop him; he eventually went on to win Pulitzers for A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975), and Three Tall Women (1994).
The 1966 film adaptation of Virginia Woolf?, directed by Mike Nichols. ended up winning five Oscars: for Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis as Best Actress and Supporting Actress, as well as Best Art Direction, Black and White, Best Cinematography, Black and White, and Best Costume Design, Black and White.
Albee later claimed two more Tony Awards for The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, and the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005.
Sunday, Sept. 18 on CBS’ Sunday Morning and NBC’s Today shows, actors, directors and writers will be paying tribute to Albee, as reported by Deadline.