Remembering Playwright Edward Albee ’46

Photo courtesy of Neilson Barnard

Photo courtesy of Neilson Barnard

On Friday, September 16, legendary playwright and Choate alum Edward Albee ’46 passed away quietly in his home in Montauk, New York. The death of the 88-year-old playwright, a winner of three Pulitzer Prizes and two Tony Awards, has left the world feeling numb.

From the moment he first stepped foot on our school upon the hillside, to his last visit in 2006, Albee remained faithful to his alma mater, gracing our campus and community with his numerous visits over the years.

As a student at Choate, Albee frequently wrote for The News and was the managing editor of the literature and art publication, The Lit. Ever since his graduation in 1946, Albee has visited campus on seven different occasions. In 1968, Albee visited to watch Choate’s rendition of his internationally-acclaimed play, The Zoo Story. In 1972 he came to accept the Alumni Seal Prize and for the grand opening of the Paul Mellon Arts Center. Last, he was the speaker at two Commencements, visiting Choate in 2006 for the last time.

In 1991 and 2006, Albee worked with drama instructor Ms. Tracy Ginder-Delventhal leading theater workshops for students. Ms. Ginder-Delventhal remembers his 1991 appearance with certain ambivalence, but of the 2006 visit, in contrast, she said, “The second time he came was much different than the first. I was more secure and perhaps his character had mellowed a little. He was brought in to work with the student playwrights and because of it, we were dealing with totally different questions. He was very respectful of me and although he challenged the kids, I think it was in a way that enabled them to learn and grow.”

Of the last day working with Albee, Ms. Ginder-Delventhal recalled, “I drove him to the train station after our last workshop and he kissed my cheek.” She added, I felt very honored and that we had met as fellow artists.” She followed, “When I look at the history of theatre, it is clear to me that his voice was extremely important and that he changed theatre in the U.S. from being about entertainment to being about social and political change. I thank him for that.” His instructive visits to Choate seem to have been inspiring for students and faculty alike.

Albee, like many of his contemporaries, was a critic of the American Dream, shedding light on a darker interpretation of the human condition. He was widely known for his fiery spirit and his unapologetic subversion against his critics. As Albee once said to a Choate senior during one of his visits, “Never be afraid to be outrageous.” Indeed, that is one of the major lessons he propagated while at school.

Although the loss of Albee’s ferocity in his writing can still be felt throughout the art world, his sweltering spirit continues to live on not only through ground breaking works, but also in the legacy that he left here at Choate Rosemary Hall.

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