The Play that Changed My Life
Playwright Edward Albee Introduces Us to The Play That Changed His Life
Jimmy Durante and a small elephant in “Jumbo.”
The Play That Changed My Life. Well that’s a complex task. Probably the seventy-five masterpieces written throughout history, and the hundreds and hundreds of lesser works that have taught me what not to do. But I think I have to go back to my first theatrical experience to get to the true answer. When I was six years old, I was taken to the now nonexistent Hippodrome Theatre in New York City to see a musical called Jumbo. It starred Jimmy Durante and a small elephant, who resembled each other considerably, though Mr. Durante had more lines. The score, as I recall, was by Rodgers and Hart, and had lots of good stuff.
I think what hooked me—and this was long before I knew it had hooked me—was the total unreality of the experience becoming absolute reality. The absolute suspension of disbelief which took my six-year-old mind by storm. My first Chekhov, my first Beckett, my first whatever else, were revelatory experiences. But I have to go back to Durante and this little elephant for the true genesis.
From The Play That Changed My Life
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