Albert and Shirley Small Speial Collections Library
actors graphicCreating America's Theatre
actors graphic
Introduction to the Exhibit
Early American Theatre
A Novel Idea
Setting the Modern Stage
A Voice of Their Own
Picks and Pans
Playbills and Programs
Regional Theatre in Virginia

Setting the Modern Stage

Contemporary Playwrights

Edward Albee

A controversial playwright, Edward Albee burst upon the American theatre scene in 1960, with his first play, the one-act The Zoo Story. Following in quick succession, The Sandbox (1960), The American Dream (1961), and The Death of Bessie Smith (1961) placed Albee at the forefront of the experimental Off-Broadway theatre movement of the 1960s. His first full-length play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, opened on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre in 1962 and ran for 664 performances, wining Albee numerous theatrical awards, including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and two Tony Awards. While Albee’s initial theatrical forays were successful, his works in the 1970s and 1980s brought less popular and critical acclaim. However, he continued writing, directing, producing plays, and mentoring other new playwrights, such as Sam Shepard and Amiri Baraka. Albee’s play Three Tall Women thrust him back into the spotlight in the early 1990s, garnering him his third Pulitzer Prize.

Critics have tried to label Albee with such terms as absurdist and nihilist, but the experimental nature of his plots, themes, and dialogues subverts tidy categorization. His commentary on American culture and the sense of loss of the individual impact and challenge his audiences. His most recent works, Occupant and The Goat; or Who Is Sylvia?, both opened in New York earlier this year.


Elizabeth I. McCann, Jeffrey Ash, Daryl Roth… Present the Vineyard Theatre Production of (1994 Pultzer Prize for Drama) Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women.” Playbill for the Promenade Theatre. New York: Playbill, [1995].


Albee, Edward. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? New York: Atheneum, 1962.
From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.


Albee, Edward. Excerpt from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? [Columbus, Ohio]: The Logan Elm Press at The Ohio State University, 1992.

Courtsey of Ann Beattie.



Shown is one page from the Inaugural Commemorative Keepsake for The Thurber Center Opening in December 1992.


A. R. Gurney, Jr.

Filling his plots with characters and attitudes taken from upper-middle-class American society has caused critics to label Albert Ramsdell Gurney, Jr., as a “WASP” playwright. Born into the society which he chronicles, Gurney attended Williams College and the Yale School of Drama and, in 1960, joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While pursuing his teaching career, Gurney also wrote plays. Many of his early plays opened in regional theatre and Off-Broadway during the 1960s and 1970s. Recognition as a playwright, however, did not come until 1982, when New York’s Playwrights Horizons produced his play The Dining Room. Gurney followed this play with other successes, including What I Did Last Summer, The Perfect Party, Sweet Sue, Another Antigone, The Cocktail Hour, Love Letters, A Cheever Evening, and Sylvia.

Gurney continues to write prolifically and in the last year, two more of his new plays have been produced in New York—Buffalo Gal and Human Events. His witty, intelligent, and creative commentary on the foibles of middle America form the basis of a playwriting career that has spanned over forty years.


“Love Letters” by A. R. Gurney, Jr. Program for the Tom Patterson Theatre. [Stratford, England: Stratford Festival 1991].
Gift of John Frick


Gurney, A. R., Jr. Another Antigone. Acting Script. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1988.

Courtesy of Margaret Hrabe..



David Mamet

David Mamet has excelled not only as a playwright but also as a screenwriter, director, producer, novelist, poet, essayist, and children’s fiction writer. Born in 1947 in Chicago, Mamet grew up in a Jewish urban neighborhood and an emotionally charged family setting—influences that have helped to shape his sense of theatre. Emerging from Chicago’s regional theatres in the mid-1970s, Mamet’s plays found their way to New York’s Off-Off-Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Broadway theatres. The playwright’s rhythmic use of language and dialogue graphically presents the conflicts in American culture between society and the individual, the corporate world and small business, greed and ethics, relationships and betrayals. Over the last three decades, Mamet has written over twenty original plays and numerous adaptations. His best-known, award-winning theatrical works include American Buffalo (1977), Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), and his adaptation of Speed-the-Plough (1988). David Mamet continues to create works for both stage and film.


The National Theatre Production of “Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet. Playbill for the Mermaid Theatre. [London: The National Theatre, 1986].


Mamet, David. American Buffalo. San Francisco: Arion, 1992.
From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.


This limited edition is signed by David Mamet and Michael McCurdy, the illustrator.


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