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The American Dream, The Sandbox, The Death of Bessie Smith, Fam and Yam

The American Dream, The Sandbox, The Death of Bessie Smith, Fam and Yam
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Biz Staff Pick!
Author: Edward Albee
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 72
Pub. Date: 1962
ISBN-10: 0822223910
ISBN-13: 9780822223917

About the Play:

The American Dream has long been a favourite of acting teachers for female monologues.

The Death of Bessie Smith has long been a favourite of acting teachers for female/male scenes.

The volume The American Dream, The Sandbox, The Death of Bessie Smith, and FAM and YAM contains four one-act plays by Edward Albee. Among Albee's early Off-Broadway classics, The Sandbox and The American Dream, which pictured the members of a middle-class family acting out their nightmares, were the most successful and established him as a playwright known for exploring the dark side of the American dream, that anyone who is willing to work hard can achieve a middle-class life. The Sandbox and The American Dream are especially recommended for school and contest use.

The Sandbox: A man in a spotlight, clad in swimming trunks, is doing his exercises silently. A couple appears to remark, dryly, "Well, here we are; this is the beach." The woman orders a clarinetist out onto the stage and commands him to play. The couple exits, then returns carrying the woman's eighty-six-year-old mother and dumps her in a sandbox. Grandma begins to weave her history between the cool, indifferent patter of the people and the equally cool, but somehow more sympathetic, sounds from the clarinet. As Grandma covers herself with sand, it begins to dawn that the mysterious, cryptic athlete is much more than local colour, and his conversation with Grandma is, in fact, prelude to his purpose. He is "after all, the Angel of Death." (First performed in 1960 at The Jazz Gallery in New York; Cast: 2 female, 3 male)

The American Dream: Mommy and Daddy sit in a barren living room making small talk. Mommy, the domineering wife, is grappling with the thought of putting Grandma in a nursing home. Daddy, the long-suffering husband, could not care less. Grandma appears, lugging boxes of belongings, which she stacks by the door. Mommy and Daddy can't imagine what's in those boxes, but Grandma is well aware of Mommy's possible intentions. Mrs. Barker, the chairman of the women's club, arrives, not knowing why she is there. Is she there to take Grandma away? Apparently not. It all becomes evident when Grandma reveals to Mrs. Barker the story of the botched adoption of a "bumble of joy" twenty years ago by Mommy and Daddy. Mrs. Barker appears to have figured it out when Young Man enters. He's muscular, well-spoken, the answer to Mommy and Daddy's prayers: The American Dream. Grandma convinces him to assist in her master plan. She puts one over on everybody and escapes the absurdly realistic world which she finds so predictable. (First performed in 1961 at York Playhouse in New York, Cast: 3 female, 2 male)

The Death Of Bessie Smith is about an incident (later revealed to be untrue) in which the great blues singer of the title dies when she is denied treatment by a 1930s-era whites-only hospital. Set in Memphis, Tennessee, 1937, a time when the South's aristocracy is crumbling amidst the deeply racist views of its citizens. At a whites-only hospital a Nurse belittles a black Orderly, a polite young man eager to improve himself, and is severely condescending to an Intern, a white man, who is seemingly in love with her. When the Intern finally turns on her she vows to retaliate by ruining his career. The conflict comes to a head when a blood-spattered black man, a car accident victim, stumbles in pleading to get help for his woman friend who is in his wrecked car. The Nurse orders him out, but the Intern convinces the Orderly to go with him to investigate. The Nurse is furious. When they return the Intern announces, in a helpless fury, that the woman is dead. The driver reveals that his woman friend was the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith. The Nurse admits she had heard of Bessie, but it seems her anger at the futile rescue by the Intern is the only emotion she feels. (First performed in 1960 at Schlosspark Theater in Berlin; Cast: 2 female, 5 male)

FAM and YAM: YAM (the young American playwright) has requested an interview with FAM (the famous American playwright). The interview begins as YAM clucks appreciatively over all the evidences of FAM's success – the paintings, the view, the luxury of his apartment. FAM endeavours to bring the conversation back to the subject at hand, the article for which YAM is gathering material. YAM responds – with a vengeance. As FAM swallows one glass of sherry after another, YAM proceeds to mount a vitriolic attack on the insidious commerciality of the Broadway theatre. FAM is enormously amused and fails to realize words are being put in his mouth. The interview ends, and YAM thanks his host for the "interview" which he intends to use as the basis for his article. FAM is struck – too late – by the realization of the trap into which his fatuousness has allowed him to be led. He turns ashen as his paintings frown, reel, tilt and crash down around him. (First performed in 1960 at the White Barn Theatre in Westport, Connecticut; Cast: 2 male)

What people say:

"The American Dream and, especially, The Sandbox are worth a fresh look." — The Independent (UK)

About the Playwright:

Edward Albee (1928-2016) was an American playwright. Widely considered the foremost American dramatist of his generation, he wrote and directed some of the best plays in contemporary American theatre. Three of his plays have received Pulitzer Prizes, and two won a Tony Award for best play. He was awarded the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1980, and in 1996 he received both the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts. In 2005 he was awarded the special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.

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