Not to be missed – Edward Albee in conversation!
In his 50 year career, this grand old man of American theatre, has won three Pulitzer Prizes and three Tony Awards including one for lifetime achievement. He is the wordsmith behind classic plays such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (which subsequently became a vehicle for one of Liz Taylor’s most powerful film roles with Richard Burton), A Delicate Balance, Three Tall Women and The Zoo Story. Albee will be in Australia in October as a guest of Inscription to workshop six new commissioned Australian plays.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf may very well be one of Albee’s most performed plays and most recognized films however Liz Taylor was not Albee’s first choice:
"I was promised Bette Davis for ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’, the film, not for the stage play. She was a bad stage actress. I’d seen her in Tennessee Williams’ – one of his plays. She wasn’t very good. But, Warner Brothers, when they wanted to buy the rights to my play ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’, I said, "Who do you plan to put in it?" And he said – Jack Warner said, "We’re buying it for Bette Davis and James Mason," which I thought was a wonderful cast. They were both the right age for it, and there’s that scene early in the play ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ where the character Martha does an imitation of Bette Davis. And I couldn’t wait to see Bette do an imitation of herself, you know, on purpose, rather than later, when she did imitations of herself not on purpose.
For Bette they put Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, both of whom did a good job, except that Martha’s meant to be six years older than George and Elizabeth was 30 years younger than Martha and several years younger than her husband.
One good thing happened with that film: Mike Nichols and the cast refused to do any of the screenplays that were written by the producer and insisted on filming my play as I wrote it. That was nice. That doesn’t happen very often in film in America."
Amanda Smith will interview Albee about his half century of writing for the stage, his ongoing work encouraging and mentoring new writers and what might lie ahead for dramatists and theatre in the coming decades.
Other topics of discussion may include: how theatre has changed in the fifty years he has practiced it, and how he has, if he has, as well as the role of the arts in America and the shifting landscape with the new US Government. Edward Albee has some strong opinions on both topics having said about modern Broadway:
"For the most part, you have to have stars for Broadway productions, whether they can walk across stage without falling down or not. And a lot of the productions that I’ve seen over the past several years in New York on Broadway are first-rate plays, have been defeated by the fact that the stars that the economy forces to be in them do damage to the play. I’d say that the smaller theatres, what we call the "off Broadway movement", still produces more interesting theatre in New York and in the United States than the large commercial theatres do."
And his reflection on the new US president:
"I’ve watched – I’ve participated in all that, and participated actively in a lot of it. Unfortunately, I find that there are still areas of our country which are lagging way behind. The threats against President Barack Obama’s life are still out there. I will be grateful if he survives two terms without being shot at. I’ll be very, very grateful because he’s going to be an extraordinary President. But the progress has been considerable, yes. But there are still huge areas of our society that will not learn anything from time or from history. And the whites must rule, the blacks are inferior. There’s some – still some terribly anti-Semitic areas of the United States. We haven’t learned everything yet as a country."
America’s finest and most influential playwright, Edward Albee will deliver the MTC 2010 John Sumner Lecture, in a Q&A format with Radio National’s Amanda Smith, on Sunday 17 October, 3pm at the MTC Theatre, Sumner.
Bookings essential: (03) 8688 0800
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