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If you like Edward Albee's story, you might also like:
Sally Field,
Athol Fugard,
Ernest J. Gaines,
Jeremy Irons,
James Earl Jones,
Trevor Nunn,
Harold Prince,
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and Wole Soyinka

Edward Albee can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Related Links:
Albee Foundation
Kennedy Center
Albee on Broadway

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Edward Albee
Edward Albee
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Edward Albee Interview (page: 2 / 6)

Three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama

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  Edward Albee

You weren't exactly a poster child for success in school, we understand.

Edward Albee: Well -- no.

I got thrown out of a lot of schools, yeah, because I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to be home either. I didn't want to be anywhere I was. But, I managed to get an education before I got thrown out, in the stuff that interested me. Teachers seemed to sense that, in some terribly unformed way, there might be something going on in the mind there that should be encouraged. So, they would encourage me towards the things that interested me. And, that was nice. So, I'd learn something at one school, get thrown out, go to another and learn some more.

Were there teachers who influenced you? Who were important to you?

Edward Albee: Oh sure.

There were some teachers who were very, very helpful and, as I say, sensed that maybe I had a mind worth cultivating, and pointed me in the right direction to a lot of things. I can't be specific about it, but I know that was going on. These are all private schools, not public schools in the bowels of the city. These were private schools, a lot of wealthy kids there. But, the teachers were paid fairly well, and they were better educated than their students -- which is not necessarily true in many of our public school systems now -- and some bright people. They had small classes -- seven or eight kids in a class -- and they could spend time finding out who the kids were. I'm very, very grateful that, even though I didn't get along with my adoptive parents, they did offer me an extraordinarily good education.

You say you started writing poetry at eight or nine.

Edward Albee: Yeah. I'd already started drawing before then.

What do you think motivated you to do that?

Edward Albee: Probably because I thought I was a painter, and I thought I was a writer.

You left college early, didn't you?

Edward Albee: Yes, I did. It was a mutual agreement.

I was not going to many of the courses I was supposed to in my freshman and sophomore year. I was going to a lot of interesting courses the seniors were taking, getting a good education on a graduating level, and of course, being marked absent and failing my required courses. They didn't like that. And, they gave me a choice: go to the courses I was supposed to, or leave. So I left. I was the one being educated; I thought I should have some say as to the nature of my education. Foolish notion.

You also left home for good after that, didn't you?

Edward Albee Interview Photo
Edward Albee: Yes, I did. I tried first when I was 13, because one of my grandmothers had given me little Christmas presents, and I had a few hundred dollars. So I went into New York with my little suitcase and tried to get on an ocean liner -- Cunard, or whatever the line was -- and discovered that I didn't have enough money. Also, I didn't have any identification or anything, and they weren't going to let me on board the ship.

Where did you want to go?

Edward Albee: Anywhere. London or Paris, probably Paris. But that didn't work out. So I waited until we were so completely fed up with each other there was nothing for it.

When you left home, you went to Greenwich Village in New York City. What were you looking for?

Edward Albee: I guess I'd been told that Greenwich Village was where whatever intellectual ferment was going on in New York was going on. That's where all the interesting people were. So I went there.

And you found it?

Edward Albee: Yeah. It was very easy in those days. Nobody had agents. Nobody was famous.

What did you do when you got there?

Edward Albee: I completed -- or not completed -- continued my education, by going to see all the great abstract expressionist paintings, and listening to all the contemporary music up at Columbia at McMillan Theatre, going to see all the wonderful off-off Broadway plays. The paperback book market was around, so when I couldn't steal a book I could buy it real cheap. It was good. And, there were a lot of saloons that we all went to, all the writers. All the painters, of course, would go to the Cedar Bar, and you would go there and watch them fall down. It was sort of nice. And, then all the writers would be going to -- what was that bar on the corner of Bleecker and McDougall called? San Remo. Everybody would be there, sitting around talking. And, if you wanted to be with the young composers you'd go up to the Russian Tea Room -- not the Russian Tea Room -- there was a bar on the southwest corner of Carnegie Hall. I forget what it was called. And, all the composers would be there. We all knew each other. Everybody was friendly. Yes, it was a nice time. I spent about 10 years. My post-graduate work, yeah.

How did you support yourself?

Edward Albee: One of my grandmothers had given me a tiny inheritance, which kept me in beer and sandwiches, and sharing a tiny apartment with five or six of my very close friends. And also I would take jobs from time to time. The only one I liked was delivering telegrams for Western Union. That was a good job. You'd show up when you wanted to, and if you were really clever, you could earn tips very easily.

What persuaded you -- or compelled you -- to become a writer?

Edward Albee: I don't know. I knew I was going to be involved in the arts in some fashion when I was very young. That's why I wanted to be a composer, and did painting and drawing and writing. It just seemed inevitable to me. That's who I was, therefore that's what I would do. It's just the way the mind works.

Was there a defining moment?

Edward Albee: No. Was it hearing Bach for the first time? Was it seeing a great painting? Was it reading Turgenev? Or all together? I can't be sure. I don't know.

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This page last revised on Apr 11, 2008 15:25 EDT
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