Edward Albee Opens Tennessee Williams Festival
March 25, 2011 – Humor and tragedy are “terribly close to each other,” award-winning playwright Edward Albee told a Georgetown audience March 24 in an on-stage conversation with NPR’s Susan Stamberg.
Albee spoke during the official opening of the Tennessee Williams Centennial Festival at the university March 24-27.
“One of the good things about Tennessee is that he had a sense of humor,” Albee said, “and he knew how close the ridiculously funny was to the desperately serious. That’s so important for a writer to know.”
The Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winner spoke about Williams and his own plays with candor and bluntness.
“[Williams] told the truth, there’s the problem,” he said to laughter from the audience. “You get in a lot of trouble for telling the truth in theater.”
Albee and Stamberg talked about Williams’ recurrent themes of sexuality, loneliness and salvation.
“I like to think that I’ve learned, in my own craft, a great deal from the chances that Tennessee takes as a playwright,” he said.
No Second Guesses
The author of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? said he makes fewer changes in his plays in rehearsal than many playwrights because of his own unique writing process.
“When I’m writing a play down on the page, I see it and I hear it as I’m writing it – as [though it were] a play being performed in front of me,” Albee explained.
Stamberg asked him if he ever changes his plays or texts after seeing them for the first time. He said he didn’t.
“Rewriting is usually second-guessing, and that’s not as good as getting it right the first time,” the playwright said.
Georgetown students and professional actors performed pieces from Tennessee Williams’ work during the talk, including a monologue from Camino Real, performed by actress Kathleen Chalfant and a reading from Suddenly Last Summer by Caitlin Cassidy (C’11), Jimmy Dailey (C’11), and Allie Villarreal (C’12).
Actor Rich Foucheaux and Susan Lynskey, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Performing Arts, performed a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire.
The event was held in conjunction with the annual Richardson Lecture, which is sponsored by the American Studies Program.
Derek Goldman, artistic director for Georgetown’s Davis Performing Arts Center and associate professor of theater and performance studies, emphasized the significance of the festival at Georgetown.
“Great artists make us see the world differently, and transform our way of being in it. On a campus so committed to serving the disadvantaged among us,” he said. “Perhaps no writer has characterized the fragile, the vulnerable and the broken with more lyricism, compassion and indelible poetry than Tennessee Williams.”