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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,
Lloyd Richards,
Stephen Sondheim
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: 3 / 6)

Three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama

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  Edward Albee

How did your first play, The Zoo Story, come about?

Edward Albee: I don't remember.

I know that I liberated a large typewriter from the Western Union company and dragged it down to the apartment I was sharing with all my friends, and just started writing this play. It took me two weeks. It's called The Zoo Story. I'd been writing a lot of stuff until then. I'd made a couple of half-assed attempts at plays which I never finished, and all of a sudden I wrote The Zoo Story, and I had a very odd sensation: "This isn't bad. This may even be individual." It's the first thing I ever wrote that I could say, "You wrote this. All the influences have been put aside, and put under. You've learned enough. This is your voice." I was aware of that at the time. That was a good feeling.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

It's been written that you considered it a 30th birthday present to yourself. Is that true?

Edward Albee: Pretty much. That may be after the fact. You know, here I was delivering telegrams at Western Union, which is okay to do if you're a kid, but you can't go on into your 50s doing it. You've got to have some other kind of career.

How do you go about it? How do you write a play?

Edward Albee: It's very hard to explain to anybody who isn't a playwright. If you're a playwright -- that's why I was not a very good poet, and a bad novelist, and a bad short story writer. And then, I wrote a play and I figured out that's what I was supposed to be doing all my life. And, also I just think that every writer -- everybody in any of the arts -- has a particular time when they can become individual. It's different from people. You know, some people, they're doing it when they're 18. Some don't get to it until they're 50. And The Zoo Story was that moment where I knew I'd written something good -- and individual. And you just take off from there. That's when it happens.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Can you say what inspired it?

Edward Albee: The Zoo Story? No. No idea. In retrospect? Sure. I was obviously analyzing two opposite people: one had compromised too much on the way to adulthood, and the other was compromising nowhere at all. And there was bound to be a clash. But that's merely plot. I don't know, really. I never know.

The only play that I've known what began it, was when I wrote a play about Bessie Smith, the great black blues singer who was allowed to die outside of Memphis in 1937, because she was black and the hospitals were white. Even there, she's not in the play, her blood is. But, with the exception of that one, I write my plays to find out why I'm writing them -- what's going on in my head that is turning into a play. And, I become aware that it's turning into a play, and so I write it down. So, simple and so easy and so true.

You make it sound so simple.

Edward Albee Interview Photo
Edward Albee: Well it is. I'm not one of these didactic playwrights who says, "I must now write a play about..." this or that subject, and find some characters. It comes into focus very slowly for me. When it's sufficiently into focus, I can hear the characters, know them, and put them in their action.

How would you describe the writer's life? What's it take to do it?

Edward Albee: I imagine each writer's life is very individual. Some of us have great celebrity, others keep fairly quiet and nobody knows who we are, which is nice. Some people have commercial success, some people don't. There is no such thing as "the writer's life." There is merely that time when you're sitting upstairs, or wherever you sit, and you're writing something. That's very special, and probably very individual for each person, too.

For you as an individual, what did it take to write what you have written?

Edward Albee: Ideas that come into my head that I've got to get out of my head. That simple. I'm a playwright, therefore I write plays. That's what I do, that's what I am. I think it's true with all creative people. Some people are composers. Some people don't get it right. You know, Henry James thought he should be a playwright. He was wrong. Arthur Miller thought he should be a novelist. He was wrong. They figured it out right.

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