Book Awards E-MAIL US



The Wag Chats with
Edward Albee

Playwright Edward Albee discusses naturalism and explains why his plays don't belong under the rubric 'Theater of the Absurd.'

Your work has straddled the fences of the absurdist movements and the naturalist / realist movements. How have you managed that?

Albee: Every story demands to be told in its own way, and so I shift back and forth, depending upon the needs of the story I'm telling. Some of my plays, like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf or The Zoo Story, are absolutely naturalistic, and others are highly stylized because that's what the play demands to be told effectively.

WAG: And yet when you did The Zoo Story, which was first produced in 1959 in Berlin, they were putting you in with the absurdist movements of Pirandello and Ionesco.

Albee: Why did that happen? Because there was a misunderstanding about the nature of the Theater of the Absurd. Martin Esslin, a very, very bright German critic, wrote a book called The Theater of the Absurd in which he pointed out that the Theater of the Absurd as it originated in France in the 1940s was basically a post-existentialist movement—you know, Sartre and Camus. Having to do with the absurdity of man's position in a universe that made no sense. And that was the philosophical basis of the Theater of the Absurd. Then people started to think it had something to do with the style that the plays were written in: any play that wasn't naturalistic was absurd. So the whole philosophical basis of calling something the Theater of the Absurd went out the window. Any play that wasn't three-dimensional, naturalistic, kitchen-sink drama was Theater of the Absurd. Like most categories and definitions, it doesn't make much sense any more, unfortunately. Most labels are oversimplifications, I think.

—Interview conducted by John Porter

Posted April 1, 2001


Edward Albee's first play, The Zoo Story, premiered in 1959. His most famous play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, appeared three yeares later. It was adapted for film in 1966 with Richard Burton and Elizabaeth Taylor, and it is generally considered its stars' greatest work together.



Graphic Design by D.A. Frostick 
Contents and Graphic Design Copyright 1999-2005
riverrun enterprises, inc.