Edward Albee can no longer be considered America's greatest living playwright. The 88-year-old, whose most famous works include A Delicate Balance and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, died Friday at his home in Montauk, New York. Albee, a three-time Pulitzer winner, was famous for challenging audiences with his works, starting with 1960's The Zoo Story. "All art should be useful," he once told NPR. "If it's merely decorative, it's a waste of time. You know, if you're going to spend a couple of hours of your life listening to string quartets or being at plays or going to a museum and looking at paintings, something should happen to you. You should be changed."
Albee was put up for adoption within weeks of his birth in Virginia in 1928 and ended up with the owners of a chain of vaudeville theaters, the New York Times notes. "They didn’t want a writer on their hands. Good God, no," recalled Albee, whose path to becoming a playwright included expulsion from Hartford's Trinity College, moving to Greenwich Village during its heyday as a creative hub, and what he described as failure in all other branches of writing. Albee's partner of 35 years, sculptor Jonathan Thomas, died in 2005. The AP reports that before surgery several years ago, Albee wrote this statement, to be issued on his death: "To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love." (Read more playwright stories.)