Monday Motivation: Five Quotes by Montauk Playwright Edward Albee

Edward Albee, Photo: ©PATRICKMCMULLAN
Edward Albee, Photo: ©PATRICKMCMULLAN

For today’s Monday Motivation, we look to Montauk’s legendary playwright Edward Albee, known for his powerful, thought-provoking plays (anything less affecting, he considered a waste of time).

Born and placed for adoption in 1928, Albee grew up in Larchmont, NY with his wealthy adoptive parents, leaving home at age 18 to pursue his dream of writing, which his parents didn’t support. By the time he ventured out on his own, he’d already written nine poems, 11 short stories, the play Schism and a 500-page novel titled The Flesh of Unbelievers.

Upon moving to Greenwich Village, Albee wrote two plays that saw success in Berlin before debuting in New York City—The Zoo Story in 1959 and The Death of Bessie Smith in 1960. His most well-known play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, opened on Broadway in 1962, receiving a Tony Award for Best Play and a Pulitzer Prize consideration. He later went on to win three Pulitzers for Drama and one more Tony Award for The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?. Many of his plays fall into the category of Theatre of the Absurd, which encompasses works that focus on existentialism and the breakdown of communication that occurs when human existence loses its meaning, making him one of the few American playwrights to adopt this Post World War II European style.

Albee purchased a Montauk home in the 1960s and established the Edward F. Albee Foundation, Inc., which funds the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center (aka The Barn) residence for artists and writers in Montauk. He was also a friend of Bay Street Theater, which produced his play Seascape in 2001.

While he was openly gay, having dated playwright Terrance McNally in the 1950s and been the life partner of sculptor Jonathan Richard Thomas from 1971 to Thomas’s death in 2005, Albee refused to be labelled as a “gay writer,” preferring to “transcend self… [as] a writer who happened to be gay.” He died in his Montauk home in 2016 at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy that the theater community will honor and revere for generations to come.

Here are five of Albee’s most inspirational and thought-provoking quotes:

“You’re alive only once, as far as we know, and what could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it?”

“I think we should all live on the precipice of life, as fully and as dangerously as possible.”

“Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”

“Creativity is magic; don’t examine it too closely.”

“One must let the play happen to one; one must let the mind loose to respond as it will, to receive impressions, to sense rather than know, to gather rather than immediately understand.”

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