Edward Albee, 1928-2016
Tony Winner Pam MacKinnon Remembers The Playwright Edward Albee
The Daily Beast
September 17, 2016
Pam MacKinnon is the most prolific of directors of Edward Albee’s plays, helming productions of The Play About The Baby (2002), The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2003), Peter and Jerry (2007), Occupant (2008), A Delicate Balance (2009 and 2014), and the 2012 Broadway production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which she won a Tony (the production also won Best Revival of a Play, and Best Actor, for Tracy Letts, who played George).
Below, MacKinnon recalls working with Albee, who has died aged 88, and the charming phone message she received from him when she won the Tony Award.
I am very sad that Edward has died. Very sad. I just landed in Frankfurt Airport to a slew of phone messages, texts and emails.
Edward and I first met in 2002 when his play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? was in rehearsal for Broadway, a revival of All Over was rehearsing for the McCarter Theatre, slated to then come in the New York after, and I was directing The Play About the Baby on the heels of its off-Broadway run for a production in Philly.
These were heady, fun times for him… and me. He came to my rehearsals, just like the others I imagine, once a week. The actors and I were a little terrified; it was Edward Albee after all.
Soon after that I directed the regional premiere of The Goat at the Alley Theatre in Houston. After some missteps on my part about the set, we drove together in a crappy rental car to a storage unit of his.
He had taught for years in Houston and had amassed quite an art collection by local artists. We pulled out several paintings. “Which ones do you want to use?” It was a lot like working on a show downtown. We even co-opted the artistic director’s brand new office furniture for the production. Better than a young director getting fired, that’s for sure.
A few seasons later, I brought my cat with me to Hartford when I directed his reimagined Zoo Story [newly titled as Peter and Jerry]. She hid under the bed in the strange new apartment. Edward got down on hands and knees and talked to her: “She knows; she knows.” [Editor’s note: The same words are spoken by a character in Albee’s The Lady From Dubuque.] Naturally she came out to say hello; it was Edward Albee after all.
Years later when I won the Tony for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? he called early the next morning and left a message: “Isn’t it nice when things go the way they’re supposed to? Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations. I love you. Will you marry me? Please say no.” When I replaced that phone, I lost the voicemail, but I’m not forgetting that message.
He was an iconoclast but so kind. If he thought you had something to offer, he treated you as a colleague, regardless of your resume. He worked all over: campuses, small regional theaters, small European theaters, Broadway, off-Broadway, downtown. Loved younger artists. Wrote and directed his way. He poured as much of himself into the teenage role, and the middle aged woman role and the old man role, as he did to roles that “looked like” him. He was fierce and funny and loyal and uncompromising, and that all showed up on the page and with him in rehearsal. We had a blast together, even when it was hard.
He gave my career an artistic spine. I loved him. I miss him. I am determined and excited to direct more of his plays.