September 24, 2008

Legendary Playwright Albee To Get Special Honor Here

By Holahan, Jane

Edward Albee, considered one of America's greatest playwrights and best known for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," will receive the first Creativity Award from the Pennsylvania Academy of Music. Albee, who will be honored in Lancaster on Oct. 15, has won three Pulitzer Prizes for drama and three Tony awards. He received a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2005.

Albee, who is 80, will read some of his early poetry during his Lancaster visit.

A cocktail reception and concert of both contemporary and baroque music also will be held.

Tickets are $50 per person and must be reserved by Oct. 1. To reserve tickets, call Kate Baker at 399-9733.

"We are awarding the whole idea of creativity," says Frances Veri, co-founder of the Academy of Music with her husband, Michael Jamanis.

"We wanted the award to be given to someone who changed the world in some way through what he has done, something that has expanded our vision, expands the possibility of mankind's expression," Veri says. "And I think it's wonderful that we, as a music school, are recognizing other arts."

Veri says she hopes this will be the first of an annual honor.

Albee has written 29 plays, beginning with "Zoo Story" in 1958.

His "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," (1963) about an alcohol- fueled night with the battling couple George and Martha, was immensely popular and became a classic film with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

His work combines realism with surrealism and offers absurdist and often biting commentary on American society.

The writer's Pulitzer Prizes for drama came for "A Delicate Balance," (1967), "Seascape" (1975) and "Three Tall Women" (1994). (He would have won four, but after the Pulitzer Prize drama panel chose "Woolf," the general Pulitzer Committee, in a controversial move, overrode the decision, saying the play didn't represent a "wholesome" view of American life.)

He's also won Tonys, for "Woolf""A Delicate Balance," and "The Goat or Who is Sylvia?" (2002).

In 2005 Albee received the Lifetime Achievement Tony Award, recognizing him as America's greatest living playwright.

He has also received the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts (both 1996) and the Gold Medal in Drama from the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1980).

Albee has been a tireless supporter of young writers and in 1967 he established the Edward F. Albee Foundation to provide financial support and a place for writers to work in what is known as "The Barn" in Montauk, N.Y.

"He is a very thoughtful, sensitive person," says Veri, who met him in New York.

"Here is a playwright celebrating his 80th year, and he continues to write," she says, adding with a laugh, "and you know, I love the fact he writes on a yellow legal pad, not a computer."

Albee describes his work as "an examination of the American scene, an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, and emasculation and vacuity, a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen."

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