What is the difference between a master and a celebrity? (Edward Albee)‡

Instructors: Please note that the Edward Albee and Julian Schnabel videos (marked with ‡) contain profanity that may not be appropriate for all students. Be sure to review these videos before showing them in class. There are even more of them (including textual versions) at https://occupytheory.org/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-qualitative-research/.


Using popular figures from the world today, students will explore the relationship between mastery and celebrity and identify differences between the two.


•   Ask students to brainstorm a list of nine famous people with whom they are familiar; the instructor will add Edward Albee as the tenth name. (Alternatively, the instructor may wish to provide a list of ten names from a variety of fields. Suggested names include Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Shaquille O’Neal, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, Sarah Palin, Sonia Sotomayor, Paris Hilton, Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton, and Edward Albee.)

•   Create ten columns on the board/Smartboard, with one name heading each column.

•   Ask the class to identify what each person is most famous for. Offer a brief introduction of Edward Albee.

•   Show 3:21–6:08 (Ch. 3) of the Albee video, where Albee describes his own encounter with a master.

•   Brainstorm ideas with the class about what makes someone a “master,” and some of the things that may have helped Albee become one. Post findings on the board.

•   For each of the ten names, ask students to identify whether or not that person should be considered a “master.” Write the word “master” under each name for which there is a broad consensus.

•   Ask the class what characteristics allow these figures to be considered mas- ters. Post main findings under each column.

•   Ask students why the other figures might be famous celebrities, but should not be considered masters. Post main findings under each column.

•   View 14:02–14:51 (Ch. 5) of the Albee video, where he says that young writers often make the mistake of sacrificing their individuality for popularity. Do you agree with the advice that Albee offers? Why or why not? Why do you think he would say this?


Discuss the following with students:

•   Does being famous mean a person is a “master”? Why or why not?

•   Why might some celebrities be considered “masters” while others are not?

•   Must a person be famous in order to be considered a master? Why or why not?

•   Can students identify masters with whom they are familiar who are not famous?

•   Is every master a celebrity? Is every celebrity a master?

•   Show 20:22–22:17 (Ch. 7) from the Albee video where he talks about watching and listening to people “all the time.”

•   What traits and accomplishments differentiate a master from a simple celebrity?

•   Why is Edward Albee considered a “master”?

•   Would you consider Edward Albee a celebrity? Why or why not?

•   Based on this activity, how would you define a “master”?

•   What do you think masters can offer that celebrities cannot (and vice versa?)

•   View minutes 25:33–26:12 (Ch. 8) from the Albee video where he encourages people to “be adventuresome,” and to “make interesting mistakes.” What is an interesting mistake?