Writing Advice from Edward Albee

Following the news of Edward Albee’s death, Neil Goldstein Glick recalls the legendary gay playwright arrival to his High School and critiqued two of his plays. Here’s what he learned.

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When I was 17, I took part in California’s Young Playwright’s Project. One of the highlights of the Project, was a visit by award-winning author Edward Albee to various high schools to discuss writing and critique the works of one or two students. When I heard about that opportunity, I was determined to have my work critiqued. Even then, I knew this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I knew of Edward Albee because my Mom had the LP of the Broadway performance of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In advance of Albee’s visit, I read Woolf, although I did not fully understand the innuendoes and the ironies in the work.

I wrote a play about a family that watched too much television. The family was literally sucked into the TV through all the commercials. The play was titled The Philco Phamily. Philco was one of the early US companies to make home televisions. After a week or ten days, the first scene was complete, and I prepared an outline of the rest of the play. It was exciting to hear the dialogue in my head and then read it out loud to listen if it sounded like real speech or if was staid.

My play was chosen to be presented for Albee’s visit. I directed classmates on how to read my script. We worked hard to put together this staged reading. It had to be perfect because a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner would be seeing my work. I did not want to face embarrassment in front of my peers, my teachers and least of all, Edward Albee.

I remember that Albee entered our school auditorium with a representative of the Playwright’s Project. He had feathered, flowing, salt and pepper flecked hair and a mustache that resembled the facial hair of the gay “clones” of the 1970s and 1980s. He was of medium build, and had a slight paunch. His look was casual in jeans and a plaid button up shirt.

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