Although "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is perhaps Edward Albee's best-known play, it was passed over for the Pulitzer Prize in 1963 when the Board opted not to award a prize in drama -- despite the fact that Albee's play was the drama jury's sole recommendation. The Board, which has final say over the awards in the arts, was split evenly among its 14 members. One member condemned "Virginia Woolf" as "a filthy play . . . it's narrowminded and bigoted and anything else you want to call it."
As Mel Gussow reports, both members of the drama jury resigned in protest. "This is a case of advice without consent," one of them wrote. "Whether you like it or not, Mr. Albee's play is the biggest and strongest play written by an American this year."
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" did win the Tony for Best Play, however, and its leading actors, Arthur Hill and Uta Hagen, were honored in their respective categories as well. Albee went on to win three Pulitzers for best drama, for "A Delicate Balance" in 1967, for "Seascape" in 1975, and for "Three Tall Women" in 1994. Mel Gussow writes of "A Delicate Balance," "The play had never received its due. . . . when the play won the Pulitzer there were those who regarded it as belated payment for `Virginia Woolf,' denied the award four years earlier." Albee had to wait 19 years between Pulitzers, the second-longest interval among playwrights so honored. Eugene O'Neill won his fourth Pulitzer in 1957 for "Long Day's Journey Into Night," 29 years after winning for "Strange Interlude." Other playwrights to win multiple Pulitzers include Thornton Wild-
er, Tennessee Williams and August Wilson.
A selective Albee chronology:
The Zoo Story (1959)
The Death of Bessie Smith (1960)
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
(1963, adapted from a novel by Carson McCullers)
A Delicate Balance (1966)
The Man With Three Arms (1983)
Three Tall Women (1991)