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Cocktails with George and Martha: Movies, Marriage, and the Making of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (virtual)

February 28 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

CT United States

Join us for a virtual author event with Philip Gefter. This is the second program in our series; join us for a discussion of the film on February 21, 2024, at 7pm. Both events will be moderated by Bob Kagan and Tina Panik.

Cocktails with George and Martha: Movies, Marriage, and the Making of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (February 13). It’s a deeply-researched cultural history exploring the behind the scenes story of the provocative play, the groundbreaking film it became, and how two icons changed the image of marriage forever.

From its debut in 1962, playwright Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a wild success and a cultural lightning rod, shocking critics but enrapturing audiences. The play unfolds over one long, boozy night, laying bare the lies, compromises, and volatile love that have sustained a middle-aged couple through decades of marriage. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? demolished the wall between what could and couldn’t be said on stage, running for over 600 sold-out Broadway performances and marking a definitive end to the wholesome, I Love Lucy 1950s.

Then, Hollywood took a gamble on Albee’s sensational play and won. Starring the famously married icons Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the sensational 1966 film cemented first-time director Mike Nichols as industry royalty and won five Oscars. How this searing play became a movie classic—surviving censorship attempts, its creators’ inexperience, and its stars’ own tumultuous marriage—is one of the most riveting stories in all of cinema.

Now, acclaimed author Philip Gefter tells that story in full for the first time in Cocktails with George and Martha, tracing Woolf from its origins in Greenwich Village’s bohemian enclave, through its tormented production process, to its explosion onto screens across America and a permanent place in the canon of cinematic marriages, exploring how two couples—one fictional, one all too real—forced a nation to confront its most deeply held myths about relationships, marriage, sex, and family.

Recounting the on-set power moves and manipulations and the brilliant ideas and movie magic of an iconic piece of American theater and cinema, Cocktails with George and Martha transports us to a pivotal moment when American cinema culture were about to change forever, with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? leading the charge.

Philip Gefter is the author of What Becomes a Legend Most: The Biography of Richard Avedon; Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe, which received the 2014 Marfield Prize for arts writing; and an essay collection, Photography After Frank. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker: Photobooth, Aperture, and The New York Times, where he was an editor for over 15 years. He also served as a producer on the award-winning documentary, Bill Cunningham New York.

Please register; Zoom links will be sent out before the event.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Avon Library!


February 28
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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