Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Talking Back With Edward Albee

Posted by Chris Bannow, Marketing Intern, 3 June 2008

At age 80, Edward Albee retorts and spars with the tenacious spunk of a collegiate know-it-all, showing no signs of ever appeasing his relentless attack on tomorrow’s theatre. How do I know this after only one day as the new Marketing intern at Signature Theatre Company? Well…

Signature’s mission of producing fully staged works by playwrights-in-residence requires a devout relationship between artist and host, and to this end the company has created the means by which intimate and productive relationships are formed between the writer and the theatre for which he writes. Our code name for this event: Staff Talkback. 14 Staff Members, 1 Playwright, only about 10 chairs, and an even playing field with room for questions one could only ask in such an environment.

May 19th was Signature’s Staff Talkback with Edward Albee on his current play Occupant, and what we learned could have never been attained from the run-of-the-mill New York newspaper interview.

As we filed into the room, notepads and questions in hand and mind, we were met with Mr. Albee, sitting rather casually, eased back in his chair as if getting ready to watch his play rather than talk about it.

My fantasized construction of the Pulitzer/Tony/Drama Desk-Award Winning Playwright was shattered with the comfortably dressed, white-haired man sitting before me. Is this really the guy who wrote Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Yes. Yes it is.

For the next 40 minutes we sat, leaning on ledges, as Artistic Director Jim Houghton and his Associate Beth Whitaker led us through a plethora of questions and points of interest on Occupant. Whether it was plot, Pam MacKinnon, Mercedes Ruehl, and Larry Bryggman (the director and company of actors), a career in theatre, an artists’ inspiration, or the real-life relationship between himself and Louise Nevelson, Edward was quick to divulge stories and fearless in his blunt depiction of all the nitty gritty details. He ushered us through his fascinating history, and painted Occupant both as a furnished play and as a clockwork composed of quotes, conversations, and fabrications all deriving from the actual Louise Nevelson.

Before I knew it time was up, and we said our thank you’s and goodbyes as we departed from the entity that is Edward Albee to head back to our desks and computers. My first day at an award-winning Off-Broadway theatre, already an exciting event, was made all the more exciting by meeting with an award-winning, nationally renowned playwright. Signature cares as much about its staff as it does its audience, and I am excited to be a part of this family.

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