- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee told up-and-coming dramatists yesterday they have a responsibility to "hold up a mirror" to society.
"You can tell [fellow citizens], 'If you don't like what you see, change it.' All art is corrective," he said.
Mr. Albee, 72, entertained guests with his speech yesterday at the Kennedy Center's luncheon to recognize new American plays. He is the recipient of three Pulitzers for "A Delicate Balance," "Seascape" and "Three Tall Women." Mr. Albee, born in Washington, also was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1996.
"How lucky you are at the start of your career … how much trouble you can cause, how many truths you will tell once you know them," Mr. Albee said with a twinkle in his eye.
He also cautioned: "The theater is yours, young playwrights. Don't give it up. Resist the pressures. Everybody else will give in. The theater cannot exist without you."
Mr. Albee noted that writers hired to do films don't hold the copyrights. Playwrights do, he said, and their work may not be changed without their permission.
"If people want to tell your play, they should, but you must not allow directors to become authors," he said.
"There are other people who have good ideas directors, producers, producers' wives …, " he said, but the director should take the credit on the basis [that] the ideas bubbled up from the play's subtext.
Playwrights, Mr. Albee said, also have a responsibility "not to leave your audience where you found it." Dramatists must shock, irritate, anger or engage other emotions to move an audience to a new level and introduce it to a new world.
Playwrights also must "try to expand the boundaries of the art form," he said.
Mr. Albee also complained about a published report that he was critical of the Kennedy Center for giving Honors this year to three foreign-born artists, actress Angela Lansbury, Washington Opera Artistic Director Placido Domingo and dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Complaining that he was made to sound like a "jingoist or a Republican," Mr. Albee said Honors recipients should be American citizens but not necessarily U.S. natives.
Among playwrights receiving awards from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays yesterday was D.C. native Michael Genet. Mr. Genet, who grew up for the most part in the Brookland neighborhood in Northeast and attended St. Anthony's High School, was honored for his mythical jazz fable, "Pork Pie."
He received $10,000, and the Denver Center Theatre Company was awarded $43,000 in conjunction with the play, described as "the bebop cool storytelling of a young man's search for what turns out to be his father."
In his remarks, Mr. Genet said he had "kind of grown up" at the Kennedy Center. When he was young, he had aspired to be a classical singer, he said, so he hung around the center.
"Whenever a show had a predominantly black cast, the guys would assume I was in the cast and buzz me in," he said. He also picked up what work he could.
He recalled that he was at the Kennedy Center when President Nixon resigned in 1974. "The Bolshoi was there. They stopped the show."
Although Mr. Genet writes, he also has been an actor for "the last 23 years or so."
He studied drama at the Juilliard School in New York City and the California Institute of Art in Valencia.
Others grant recipients are:
Jamie Pachino ($10,000) and the Naked Eye Theatre in Chicago ($20,000) for "Waving Goodbye," about a 17-year-old photographer who loses her father in a mountain-climbing accident and must live that year with the mother who abandoned her.
John Walch ($10,000) and the State Theater Company in Austin, Texas ($30,000) for "The Dinosaur Within." Part of the play's description: "Stolen dinosaur footprints set off an epic story in which aboriginal Australians collide with falling movie stars …"
Also bestowed were the Roger L. Stevens Awards, which carry stipends of $2,500. Given them were Aurorae Khoo for "The Double Auntie Waltz," Immigrants' Theatre Project Inc. of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Shishir Kurup for "Merchant on Venice," Cornerstone Theater Company of Los Angeles; Patty Lynch and Kent Stephens for "Mrs. Mackenzie's Beginner's Guide to the Blues," Illusion Theater of Minneapolis; and Adam Rapp for "Nocturne," American Repertory Theatre of Cambridge, Mass.
Mr. Walch also received the Charlotte Woolard Award for "The Dinosaur Within."

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