Sunday, January 20, 2008

Edward Albee's Decree

While I was running errands on Saturday, I wore my Sony S2 Walkman so I could listen to NPR's Morning Edition. I heard an interview that indicated Edward Albee will no longer give professional theater companies permission to stage his Zoo Story alone. He now insists that it can only be staged as the second act in his play Peter and Jerry.

Zoo Story was Albee's first play, written in 1958 when he was just 30. It tells the story of two men who meet on a bench in New York's Central Park. Peter's a married publishing executive and Jerry describes himself as a "permanent transient." The play explores themes of loneliness and isolation.

This isn't the first time Albee's tinkered with Zoo Story. In 1981 he wrote a parody of it called Another Part of the Zoo for a gay benefit. That effort was not well received by the critics.

In 2003, the Hartford Stage wanted to produce Zoo Story, but needed to fill out the stage bill. They commissioned Albee to write another one-act play. To their surprise, Albee came back with a prequel to Zoo Story that he called Homelife. Hartford Stage produced the two plays as one play called Peter and Jerry during their 2004 season.

“They’re still two plays,” Albee told Entertainment Connecticut Central magazine during the play's run. “They can be performed separately. But I think of it now as one play.”

Albee has formalized his belief. Since Zoo Story is HIS play, he insists it either be performed as part of Peter and Jerry or not at all.

He still gives permission to non-professional groups like high schools and colleges to produce "Zoo Story" alone. Zoo Story is a popular choice for schools because, with just one act, it can be easily staged.

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