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Monday, February 19, 1996
Playwright Edward Albee educates & entertains
Pulitzer Prize winner is part of Living Writers series
Daily Aztec/ROBERT WASSERMAN
Edward Albee reading from a play he is currently writing.
By BOB FINDLE
Daily Aztec Asst. City Editor
The stark setting, walls painted flat black and a small, wooden
stage equipped with only a single microphone, a podium and two
wooden boxes stacked to be a table, was made brighter last Thursday
night by the presence of playwright Edward Albee, 67.
Albee came to San Diego State University as part of the English
department's Living Writers series.
"I was delighted to be included in the group of Living Writers,"
Albee said with a wry smile to the capacity audience gathered at
SDSU's Experimental Theater. "That cheered me up most thoroughly a
Albee, considered to be one of the most outstanding modern American
playwrights, has received Pulitzer Prizes for three of his plays:
"Three Tall Women", "A Delicate Balance" and "Seascape". His
well known play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" was awarded the
New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. The play was
later made into a movie.
Albee said he would not do the usual presentation of readings from
his works that everybody knows.
"I thought I would read some scenes for characters who are in a
play I am writing at the moment," he said, "and some who have
appeared in a fairly recent play of mine, that unless you have been
quick, agile and well traveled, you could not have possibly seen."
This announcement pleased the audience of students, faculty and
"There's no connective tissue really in what I am going to read
tonight," he said. "Not a traveled road from beginning to end, but
there is a certain consistency in the work in that I wrote it."
After reciting a brief poem, Albee launched into 45 minutes of
presenting a cast of male and female characters ranging in age from
16 years old to midlife. There were, among others, a Bible stealing
kleptomaniac, a young lady seeking love, a male street hustler, a
pigeon nippled woman and a grumpy famous writer.
Occasionally sipping from a white and gold can of Diet Coke, using
nothing more than his well modulated voice, with only a few words
of introduction, Albee let the audience see and hear his
Terry Miller, an audience member, said she felt she got actually to
meet the people.
The evening was sprinkled with laughter mixed with poignant moments.
"Nobody dies from not being recognized," one character said. "From
being forgotten? Maybe."
A man says about life, "We're not responsible for everything that
does happen to us, but we're certainly responsible for what doesn't."
Another character talks about how a man she meets at a party
describes himself. "My shallows run deep," the man says.
Prefacing a story about a sighted man who visits an art exhibit for
the blind, Albee said, "I don't mean to offend those of you in the
audience who are blind physically blind that is."
After the readings, Albee signed books.
During the day of his visit, Albee attended two drama classes to
meet with students and answer questions.
Albee has been a champion of arts education in the United States,
according to SDSU drama Professor Beeb Salzer.
"He has come here (SDSU) for the last eight or nine years, once a
year, to do something for the drama department," Salzer said.
"He is truly generous about working with young people, so
interested in the next generation."
Salzer said it is hard to estimate the effect that having a famous
playwright who is known all over the world and whose work is done
every place will have on the students.
"We're never sure we can teach people to be artists," Salzer said.
"We can try to point out ways of doing things or give directions to
follow, but he (Albee) is an inspiration because he is living proof
you can live a life in the arts well, being both productive and honest."
Part of Albee's work has been to save the National Endowment for
the Arts from being dismantled.