Pulitzer-winning playwright Edward Albee dies at 88

Pulitzer-winning US playwright Edward Albee, author of masterpieces such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? died Friday at age 88, his personal assistant said in a statement.

American playwright Edward Albee.

Albee died at his home in Montauk, New York after a short illness, according to his longtime personal assistant Jakob Holder. The statement confirming Albee’s death included the following note, which the playwright wrote several years ago before undergoing extensive surgery, intending it to be issued when he died: “To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love.”

Considered one of the most important American playwrights of his time, Albee wrote a variety of intense, controversial plays diving into anxieties, disillusionments and death.

He burst onto the theatre scene with The Zoo Story (1958) at age 30. The two-character drama, portraying disaffection and class struggle, premiered in Berlin the following year and then moved to off-Broadway in 1960.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf debuted two years later on Broadway. The shocking trash-talking, boozy depiction of a tortured academic couple, George and Martha, was eventually a hit.

It was later made into a 1966 black-comedy movie directed by Mike Nichols and starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who won an Oscar as best actress.

Albee won a string of awards for Virginia Woolf, including a Tony for best play in 1963. The Pulitzer Prize committee recommended it for best play that year, but the Pulitzer board rejected the recommendation.

Throughout an up-and-down commercial career over several decades, Albee won three Pulitzer Prizes for best drama. The first, in 1967, was for A Delicate Balance. That was made into a 1973 film starring Katharine Hepburn and Paul Scofield.

He also garnered Pulitzers for Seascape in 1975, followed by Three Tall Women in 1994. In 2005 he was awarded the special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Born Edward Harvey on March 12, 1928, in what some say was Virginia and others the U.S. capital Washington, Albee was given up for adoption shortly afterward.

His adoptive parents, Reed and Francis Albee, were wealthy from businesses in vaudeville and motion pictures and changed his name to Edward Franklin Albee III, according to the Edward Albee Society.

Albee had a troubled relationship with his parents and was expelled from several private preparatory schools, and also was expelled from Trinity College in Connecticut. He moved to New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1950s, finding a more sympathetic environment in the avant-garde scene, where he wrote The Zoo Story that marked his breakthrough in theatre.