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May 1, 2003

American Playwright Edward Albee To Receive 2003 Algur H. Meadows Award For Excellence In The Arts

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Edward AlbeeDALLAS (SMU) -- Edward Albee, the award-winning American dramatist whose 28 plays include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Zoo Story and The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?, will receive the 2003 Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts on November 8, 2003, at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Albee will spend the three days prior to the award presentation working with students and participating in public forums at the Meadows School.

Albee first gained national recognition in 1959 with The Zoo Story, a one-act play about a drifter who orchestrates his own murder with the unwitting assistance of a publisher. It and his other early works, including The Sandbox (1959) and The American Dream (1960), changed the face of American drama with their intensity, modern themes and experimental form. Albee was hailed as the successor to Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams, with Williams himself calling Albee "the only great playwright we've ever had in America."

Today, Albee's plays form a body of work that has been called unique, uncompromising, controversial, elliptical and provocative. 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."

Albee was selected by a distinguished panel of jurors that included Gerald Freedman, dean of the School of Drama at the North Carolina School of the Arts; Mark Medoff, the playwright and theater educator; and Jack O'Brien, artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre.

"He was their unanimous first choice," said Carole Brandt, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts. "The jurors consider Edward Albee to be the greatest living playwright in America. His residency during Meadows Award week will undoubtedly provoke thoughtful discussion within the university and the metroplex.

"Although Albee is at the top of his field today, he did not have a single commercial success in the 1980s, yet it didn't faze him," Brandt said. "He has said that there is not always a great relationship between popularity and excellence; you just have to make the assumption you're doing good work and go on doing it. That's an important message for young artists to hear."

Edward Albee was born on March 12, 1928, in Washington, D.C., and adopted as an infant by millionaire couple Reed and Frances Albee. As he grew, Albee rebelled against his mother's attempts to mold him into a member of the Larchmont, New York social set, preferring instead to pursue an interest in the arts. Even before adolescence he began to write prolifically, producing poetry, plays and even novels. At age 20, he moved to Greenwich Village, and for the next decade he held a variety of odd jobs including office boy, record salesman and Western Union messenger. During this period he met Thornton Wilder, who encouraged him to become a playwright, although it was several years before Albee followed his advice.

In 1958 he wrote The Zoo Story. Found unacceptable by New York producers, it was first staged in Berlin, where its success led to an off-Broadway production that earned the Vernon Rice Award in 1960 and catapulted Albee into the national spotlight.

Since then, Albee has won numerous other awards, including three Pulitzer Prizes -- for A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975) and Three Tall Women (1994). He also earned three Tony Awards, for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1963), which many critics regard as his finest play; A Delicate Balance (1996 -- Best Revival); and, most recently, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? (2002). He received a Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 1997.

Presented annually by the Meadows School, the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts honors the accomplishments of an artist at the pinnacle of a distinguished career. It is funded by a generous endowment from The Meadows Foundation. Albee will accept the award from Foundation President and CEO Linda P. Evans and SMU President R. Gerald Turner at a formal ceremony hosted by the Meadows School of the Arts and The Meadows Foundation.

"We are delighted that Edward Albee will receive the 2003 Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts," said Linda Evans. "His presence on the SMU campus will give students a rare opportunity to interact with and learn from one of the foremost playwrights in the world today. Such opportunities help make the educational experience at the Meadows School of the Arts fuller and richer for both the students and the faculty. The Meadows Foundation is proud to honor its founder with the continued support of the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts."

The Meadows Award provides a forum for the recipient to share ideas and aspirations with the students of SMU who will be professional artists and patrons in the future. It is a permanent memorial to Algur H. Meadows (1899-1978), a distinguished arts patron and benefactor of the Meadows School of the Arts.

The award, which carries a cash prize of $50,000, has been previously awarded to such luminaries as film director Ingmar Bergman, theater director Peter Brook, artist/architect Santiago Calatrava, choreographer Merce Cunningham, choreographer Martha Graham, journalist Don Hewitt, actor John Houseman, dancer/choreographer Judith Jamison, actress Angela Lansbury, artist Jacob Lawrence, musician Wynton Marsalis, playwright Arthur Miller, singer Leontyne Price, artist Robert Rauschenberg, musician/conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, composer Stephen Sondheim and choreographer Paul Taylor.