Today in Theatre History: A NON-UPLIFTING VIRGINIA WOOLF HITS BROADWAY–October 13, 1962

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Melinda Dillon, Arthur Hill, George Grizzard and Uta Hagen failing miserably at being uplifting.

On this day (October 13) in 1962, Edward Albee’s first major play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre. Directed by Alan Schneider and starring Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, Melinda Dillon and George Grizzard, the production was the hit of the 1962-63 season–eventually winning Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Director, Leading Actor and Leading Actress.  It was also the top selection by the drama jury for the Pulitzer Prize. But, in an infamously controversial move, the Board of Trustees at Columbia University overturned the decision and elected not to award a Pulitzer for Drama that year.  At the time, the university trustees served as the final arbiter of all Pulitzer Prizes.  In their view, the play was not sufficiently “uplifting,” owing to the adult themes and profanity.  Two of the jury members, John Mason Brown and John Gassner, quit in protest–Brown declaring “they made a farce out of the drama award.”  Not long afterwards, “uplifting” was dropped as a requirement for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and few winners have been uplifting ever since…

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