Albee, Edward: *1928

Hans Fischer    Welcome to SwissEduc. My name is Hans Fischer and my guest is Edward Albee. Welcome, Mr. Albee.
Edward Albee    Thank you.
HF    In your play "The Goat or Who is Sylvia?" you show an almost picture book family, that is getting into a terrible crisis, because Martin, the husband, falls in love and has sex with a goat. You furthermore mention other sexual taboos - a sexual kiss between father and son, and the fact that a father gets sexually aroused while holding his baby on his lap. What made you write a play bringing up our sexual taboos?
EA    The sexual taboos in my play The Goat are secondary to the reason that I wrote it. They are merely methods of examining what the play is really about. The play is really about the limits of our tolerance. We play games with ourselves and pretend that we are a tolerant people; but we don't really listen to ourselves or think very much about our tolerances. We are tolerant of some things and intolerant of others, depending upon what is convenient for us and what is easy for us and what is safe for us. So I wanted to go as far out as I possibly could too to examine our limits of tolerance. I want people who see this play not to sit there and pass judgement, but I want them to imagine how they themselves would respond if they were the characters in the play. If the things that are happening to the characters in the play were indeed happening to them.
HF    Why did you choose a goat, for me a rather stupid animal and not a more intelligent one?
EA    Well, I don't know that a person who is falling in love necessarily spends much time worrying about the intelligence of the partner. In most relationships that I have noticed intelligence has not been a major factor.
HF    Yeah, right. Martin's love to a goat does not lessen his love to his wife.
EA    No, of course not.
HF    It is simply, as he puts it, and then I quote, something he is "supposed to feel, but that nobody understands, because it relates to nothing."
EA    Exactly.
HF    How should we understand that something relates to nothing?
EA    Well, we have many things that related to nothing discernibly, faith for example, is a prime example of this. It is something that indeed we take on faith. And love is very much the same thing. It is rational and irrational at the same time, it is explicable and inexplicable at the same time.
HF    Toward the end of the play, Stevie, the wife, says, "We see what's hideously wrong in what most people accept as normal." I think a key sentence. What in your opinion is wrong with our society?
EA    Well, there are many things wrong with American society at this point. Political sloth, selfishness - so many things are wrong with United States at this point that it is hard to pinpoint one. But an intelligent relationship understands, more than a stupid relationship does, the compromises that are essential to maintain a relationship, and the limits that those compromises should have.
HF    Now you mention in America. Would you say then The Goat is a very American play?
EA    Well, I can't really answer that. I'm a United States playwright. Almost all of my - yes, I guess all of my plays, with the possible exception of "Seascape," which has two lizards in it, are about humans who live in the United Sates; I guess I'm an American playwright, I never think in those terms.
HF    The play begins with Martin mentioning his fear of forgetting, even of getting Alzheimer's. How does this fact relate to the message of the play?
EA    Oh, it's merely something that he thinks that might possibly explain the strange feelings that he is having. No, Alzheimer's really has nothing to do with the play. The play is about remembering and not forgetting.
HF    Now despite raising very important questions you make the reader smile and sometimes even laugh. So seriousness and laughter, do they go together?
EA    The great Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote a great book called "Laughter in the Dark." I find that tragedy and absurd comedy are so close to each other in our civilization, that anything that isn't serious and funny at the same time has something missing.
HF    Your characters correct each other's English. Even at the height of the crisis Martin reminds Billy of using a wrong metaphor. Why is this?
EA    It's just those two characters, that's the way they behave. You know, it's not me doing it. It's my characters. These two characters are semantically involved. And so they make comments semantically. And they probably do it in a way to disarm the other one, I would imagine.
HF    You call your play "notes toward a definition of tragedy." Why notes and a definition?
EA    Well, why toward a definition of tragedy - every time I turn on television these days or read the newspaper I see the term tragedy misused. Somebody falls off a building, that's a tragedy all of a sudden. It is not a tragedy, of course. The term tragedy has been misused to the point that it's lost whatever function it has and I think we need to find a new definition. And I say notes toward because I don't have a new definition, but I think we must find one.
HF    Mr. Albee, thank you very much.
EA    You're welcome.

This interview took place over the telephone on July 27, 2005. Technical support by Kanal K Radio.

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