Born on March 12, 1928, in Washington, D.C., Edward Albee was adopted as an infant by Reed Albee, the son of Edward Franklin Albee, a powerful American Vaudeville producer. Brought up in an atmosphere of great affluence, he clashed early with the strong-minded Mrs. Albee who attempted to mold him into a respectable member of the Larchmont, New York social scene. But the young Albee refused to be bent to his mother's will, choosing instead to associate with artists and intellectuals whom she found, at the very least, objectionable.
At the age of twenty, Albee moved to New York's Greenwich Village where he held a variety of odd jobs including office boy, record salesman, and messenger for Western Union before finally hitting it big with his 1959 play, The Zoo Story. Originally produced in Berlin where it shared the bill with Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, The Zoo Story told the story of a drifter who acts out his own murder with the unwitting aid of an upper-middle-class editor. Along with other early works such as The Sandbox (1959) and The American Dream (1960), The Zoo Story effectively gave birth to American absurdist drama. Albee was hailed as the leader of a new theatrical movement and labeled as the successor to Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O'Neill. He is, however, probably more closely related to the likes of such European playwrights as Beckett and Harold Pinter. Although they may seem at first glance to be realistic, the surreal nature of Albee's plays is never far from the surface. In A Delicate Balance (1966), for example, Harry and Edna carry a mysterious psychic plague into their best friends' living room, and George and Martha's child in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962) turns out to be nothing more than a figment of their combined imagination, a pawn invented for use in their twisted, psychological games. In Three Tall Women (1994), separate characters on stage in the first act turn out to be, in the second act, the same character at different stages of her life.
Albee describes his work as "an examination of the American Scene, an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, and emasculation and vacuity, a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen."
Although he suffered through a decade of plays that refused to yield a commercial hit in the 1980's, Albee experienced a stunning success with Three Tall Women (1994) which won him his third Pulitzer Prize as well as Best Play awards from the New York Drama Critics Circle and Outer Critics Circle. He had previously won Pulitzers for A Delicate Balance (1966) and Seascape (1975). Other awards include an Obie Award (1960) and a Tony Award (1964).