Composers and their stage works 

The Death of Bessie Smith

A play in eight scenes.

Edward Albee.

Successfully paired in a long running, off-Broadway engagement, with The American Dream.

Schlosspark Theater, Berlin - Apr 21, 1960
New York - Mar 1, 1961


The central figure is an intensely arrogant daughter of the South's crumbling aristocracy who has taken a job as a receptionist in a hospital to aid her impoverished father. At work she taunts the Negro orderly, a polite young man eager to improve himself, and is almost equally condescending to the intern who has conducted a long and fruitless campaign for her affection. When he turns on her, finally, she vows to retaliate by ruining his career. Into this bristling situation comes a blood-spattered Negro, pitifully pleading for medical attention for his lady friend who is outside in their battered car. They had been in an accident, yet had been refused aid from one all-white hospital. The receptionist orders him out, but the intern and the orderly, paying no heed to her, go to assist the woman outside. When they return to announce that she is dead, and it is revealed that she was a blues singer of some importance, the White woman's insolence and superiority are crushed. It is a moment of high emotional impact.