Advice from Albee

25th April 2007 by Maura McHugh

At the weekend American playwright, Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginna Wolf?, The Sandbox), gave a two-hour masterclass in New York on writing for theatre. The New York Times sat in, and recorded some of his advice:

“Then say it,” Mr. Albee said. “That’s your job, to change things and bring people around to your point of view. You’re either right or wrong. Creativity begins in the unconscious. Don’t write too soon. Get to know your characters. You should be writing absolutely real people in real situations. That’s the only way actors can act your stuff.”

There were practical matters, too: never lecture, don’t be obscure, never become someone’s opinion of you, and remember that every line has two purposes — one, to delineate character, and two, to advance the plot. Everything else is a waste.

There was also a reading list of the four essential 20th-century playwrights (Chekhov, Pirandello, Beckett and Brecht) and a warning.

“If you only read the great writers, you’ll be in trouble,” he said. “Read junk. It’s enormously encouraging to tell yourself, ‘I can do better than that.’ “

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