Edward Albee Memorial: A Report

A friend writes: ‘Edward Albee’s life and work was celebrated by almost two dozen friends and colleagues on Tuesday at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway. Remembrances and readings by those present were supplemented by video tributes and remembrances by others, and by clips of Albee himself discussing his life and work. There was even a clip of him as the mystery guest on “What’s My Line?” (When it was determined that the

mystery guest was a Broadway playwright Arlene Francis quipped “All I can think of is Neil Simon.”) Some marvelous anecdotes about first meetings, first time seeing “The Zoo Story” and other plays, rehearsal experiences, what it was like to work for him by his assistant. John Guare painted a marvelous picture of what it was like to go to the theater before and after “The Zoo Story”, “The Connection” and “The Balcony” transformed off Broadway. Rosemary Harris read a poem by Albee about a cat. There was a wonderful reading from an essay by Albee about the role of art in a democracy that couldn’t have been more timely. Bill Irwin threatened to tap dance while quoting George’s speech “You take the time to construct a civilization…” but relented and just read it instead. Again timely as it ever was. Arthur Kopit reminisced about seeing “The Zoo Story” and feeling less worried about the long speech in his own play “Oh Dad, Poor Dad…” Terrence McNally was there remembering his ex and his lifelong friend. Bill Pullman, Mercedes Ruehl, and David Esbjornson talked about working on “The Goat” and other plays. Brian Murray told a wonderful story about a party he attended in Albee’s honor at which Albee arrived drunk and hostile only to be tamed by Noel Coward. The last to perform were Jane Alexander, Richard Thomas and Peter Francis James reading the last scene of “The Lady from Dubuque”. We were told earlier that Albee had broken down in tears upon seeing this latest revival, possibly still grieving over the death of his longtime companion of thirty years Jonathan Thomas. There were two performances of solo cello pieces by Bach. The whole thing took two and half hours but I wouldn’t have minded if it went on all day.’

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