Cooking for Tennessee, Feeding Ed Instead

What a day! What a story I have to tell you! And how difficult to tell it since my spacebar is broken! (Don’t worry, I’m working extra hard to put the spaces in for you—the story’s that good.)

One of the classes I take in my second semester of Tisch’s MFA program is Modern Drama. This week our teacher (who I love) had us read four plays by Edward Albee. We read “Virginia Woolf” last semester, and amongst the 20 or 30 plays we read (from Oedipus to Lear) it was among my top three favorites. For today it was “The American Dream,” “A Delicate Balance,” “The Play About The Baby,” and “The Goat.”

We were to stay after class, then, for a segue into next week’s subject, Tennessee Williams. A famous NY actor, Jeremy Lawrence, was coming to do his one-man Tennessee Williams show and Dan, one of my classmates who helped organize, asked me to cook something for the reception afterwards. So last night, after roasting the chicken, I made pecan bars from The Gourmet Cookbook. They came out fantastic, look:


Normally the knock-dead pecan bar recipe is The Barefoot Contessa’s, but Gourmet’s were way easier and required less pecans. However, I did incorporate one Contessa trick: I grated half an orange and half a lemon into the pecan mixture. It gave it some zing.

But back to the main story at hand. I came to school today and there was a big sign up: “JEREMY LAWRENCE CANCELLED BECAUSE OF SNOW STORM.”

I’d made the pecan bars for nothing! But no worries—I’m always happy to cook sweets and to feed them to my classmates. My classmates are always happy to eat them.

So we loitered for a bit in the lounge area waiting for class to start. We discussed things like the Oscars, the blizzard, the feasability of nuclear disarmament in North Korea. Then our teacher came and gathered us up. I was slow gathering my things, so I was the last one to follow. On my way to class I saw a conspicuous elderly gentleman walking in a different direction. He looked like Edward Albee. I thought I heard someone say: “Hey Edward,” but then I thought I hallucinated.

I ran into my classroomm. “I think I just saw Edward Albee in the hall,” I said, rather dazed. My class looked at me incredulously. My teacher shook her head and blushed: “Oh Adam,” she said, “Don’t be silly.”

But as we were talking I saw that same man go into the bathroom. “He just went into the bathroom!” I yelped. “I swear, go look!”

So Darren, one of my classmates, went into the bathroom and came back grinning. “It’s him, it’s definitely him.”

Our teacher’s smile grew broader. Suddenly a face appeared at the door–Edward Albee!

Now I realize to the non-theatrical among you this might not mean much, but surely I’m not overstating when I say that Albee may be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) living American playwrights. He has three Pulitzers to his name and constant productions of his work all around the world. A new version of “Virginia Woolf” is opening soon on Broadway with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin. The man is a genius.

He sat with us for well over an hour and answered all of our questions. I had a ton of them. He was really gracious, but really forthright. Here are some things that I wrote down:

– “You can’t act what the play means. Only act the moment to moment reality in the play. That’s all you can direct too.”

– “I have never written a role for an actor ever.”

– “Most of the plays that survive aren’t cheerful. Look at King Lear having problems with his daughters. The Macbeths weren’t a nice family.”

– “Tragedy has lost its meaning. A word that’s totally overused.”

– “You (writers) have to come to the battlefield completely informed–know what everyone’s written–good stuff and bad stuff–know everything and write the first play that everybody’s ever written.”

– “You have to know classical music. Nothing is closer to a string quartet than a play… A playwright should be as precise as a composer.”


Now the question arises—-did I feed Edward Albee one of my pecan bars? Were my pecans consumed by America’s greatest living playwright? Well, unfortunately, no. Edward’s diabetic. I did, however, snap this photo on my cell phone camera as Edward was leaving. It’s not great, but it gives you an idea. You can see my teacher glowing in the background:


Intead of tying up this post of an enchanted day with a pretty bow (and it was an enchanted day, I’ll never forget it!), I’ll instead quote Mr. Albee himself from “Virginia Woolf.” Here’s a small smattering that crackles and pops and is ever so slightly food related:

(From Act One)

George: In my mind, Martha, you are buried in cement, right up to your neck. (Martha giggles.) No…right up to your nose…that’s much quieter.

Martha (to Nick): Georgie-boy, here, says you’re terrifying. Why are you terrifying?

Nick: (with slight smile) I didn’t know I was.

Honey: (A little thickly) It’s because of your chromosomes, dear.

Nick: Oh, the chromosome business…

Martha (to Nick): What’s all this about chromosomes?

Nick: Well, chromosomes are…

Martha: I know what chromosomes are, sweetie, I love ’em.

Nick: Oh…well, then.

George: Martha eats them…for breakfast…she sprinkles them on her cereal.

9 thoughts on “Cooking for Tennessee, Feeding Ed Instead”

  1. That’s fantastic! I read Albee’s plays when I was a young acting student 20 years or so ago. Great playwright, and very cool that you got to hear him.

  2. What an enchanted day indeed. Your experience is of the most gratifying kind possible: meeting and having authentic dialogue with someone who turns out to be as admirable and human and brilliant up close and on their feet as they are in their art or other work.

  3. Ooooooh… I’ve never read Albee, but he is indeed famous! How exciting for you! I love Virginia Woolf, so is his play, so titled (minus the second o) a good place to begin?

  4. Oh, my god those squares – they are the bane of my existence. But it’s only cause I royally screwed them up. I thought a bar of butter was a half pound, when it’s actually a pound (the BC’s recipe calls for 2 pounds of butter). I realized this mistake after making the crust, but before making the topping. In the end, the supplies cost me $50. I deem them my disaster squares.

  5. Wow, I am green with jealousy. Albee is amazing — Zoo Story is one of my favorite plays of all time, and next month I’m working backstage on Three Tall Women. How wonderful that you got to meet him!

    (Is there a list online somewhere of the plays you have to read? I’m prepping for theatre grad school myself and want to be as ready as I can be. If you have an electronic list, would you email it to me?) :-)

  6. In the past, Albee has taught at the University of Houston, so I’ve actually had the chance to sit down with him more than once and chat. I was never able to leverage myself into one of his classes (always filled too quickly), but despite that found him to be a very gracious host with a refreshing open-door policy.

    Even though I never got into one of his classes, the other theater profs at UH naturally cover his work (hence my excuse to go and chat with him under the guise of wanting guidance for something), and I must say that he’s definitely one of the greats. I dislike Virginia Woolf, though, but I could just enjoy being difficult.

  7. I love that you know Bill Irwin. My AP English/Drama Director from High School is good friends with Bill from their college days thus I met him before I even knew who he was when he was starring in Waiting For Godot at the Seattle Rep. A few years later I figured out how amazing that was. Thanks for reminding me once more!

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