Who Could Win the Pulitzer? Debating the Plays Up For the Prize

News   Who Could Win the Pulitzer? Debating the Plays Up For the Prize
Playbill.com gives an overview of the plays considered leading contenders for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama by industry insiders.


The juries for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama have developed a taste for the small scale in recent years. The last three winners were The Flick by Annie Baker in 2014, Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar in 2013 and Water By the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes in 2012. Only the Baker play’s victory was even partly expected. The last time the trophy went to a high-profile work was in 2011, when Bruce Norris won it for Clybourne Park. Will that trend continued in 2015? It's hard to tell, as the Pulitzers have been fairly difficult to predict lately. But, based on a Playbill polling of various theatre critics and professionals, one thing seems for sure: there is no obvious front-runner this year.

The 2015 winner, should there be one, will be announced April 20.

<i>An Octoroon</i> stars Austin Smith and Amber Gray
An Octoroon stars Austin Smith and Amber Gray

Some of those who were asked suggested Hamilton, the highly praised new musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda. But the show opened in early 2015, so it not eligible for this year’s prize. (Would-be contenders for the 2016 Pulitzer: You have your work cut out for you.)

However, the high-brow Public Theater usually has some play in the running for the Pulitzer, and that seems to again be the case this year. A number of pundits mentioned Suzan-Lori Parks' ambitious Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), which opened Off-Broadway Oct. 28 and extended a couple times. The play received strong critical notices. The show has already won the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for a theatrical work inspired by American history. And Parks has a Pulitzer history: her Topdog/Underdog won in 2002. David Cote of Time Out New York said the Parks play was a “prime example of theatre as a forum for poetry, ideas and revolutionary action.”

A finalist for that same Kennedy Prize was Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. It, too, was cited by a couple prognosticators. The show, which played the Signature Theatre Company, concerns the estranged members of the Lafayette family, who return to Arkansas and their old plantation home to settle the accounts of their recently deceased patriarch.

But Jacobs-Jenkins seems to have two horses in this race, and the stronger of the two might be An Octoroon. Recently onstage at Theatre for a New Audience, it was first seen at Soho Rep in 2014 and has been submitted to the Pulitzer people. The avant garde work examines questions of race and history in the U.S. through the prism of a 19th-century Dion Boucicault melodrama.

Octoroon is the more ambitious/audacious of the two,” argued critic Eric Grode, “but the domestic setting and family conflicts in Appropriate might actually make it more palatable to Pulitzer judges.”

Of Octoroon, Cote added, “I don’t know if its combination of grotesquerie and honest rage will divide the committee, but it’s a rich, volatile play by a rising talent. Sometimes the Pulitzer goes to a worthy issue drama that seems to speak to our times in a serious tone, but Octoroon is messy and raucous and weird — in a good way. I hope it won’t be ignored or judged a downtown ‘experiment.’”

<i>Father Comes Home From The Wars </i>
Father Comes Home From The Wars

Also mentioned by some as candidates were Stephen Adly Guirgis' Between Riverside and Crazy, Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men and Robert AskinsHand to God. Most agreed 2014 was an underwhelming year for musicals.

"I wouldn't count out Young Jean Lee's Straight White Men,” said Rob Weinert-Kendt of American Theatre. “That aroused a lot of interest as a breakthrough play for her."

The Pulitzer Prize is administered by Columbia University. The Drama prize is "for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life." The recipient gets $10,000.

* The complete list of Pulitzer Prize in Drama winners is listed below:

2014: The Flick by Annie Baker
2013: Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
2012: Water By the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes
2011: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
2010: Next to Normal by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey
2009: Ruined, by Lynn Nottage
2008: August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts
2007: Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire
2006: No award
2004-05: Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley
2003-04: I Am My Own Wife, by Doug Wright
2002-03: Anna in the Tropics, by Nilo Cruz
2001-02: Topdog/Underdog, by Suzan-Lori Parks
2000-01: Proof, by David Auburn
1999-00: Dinner with Friends, by Donald Margulies
1998-99: Wit, by Margaret Edson
1997-98: How I Learned To Drive, by Paula Vogel
1996-97: No award
1995-96: Rent, by Jonathan Larson
1994-95: The Young Man From Atlanta, by Horton Foote
1993 94: Three Tall Women, by Edward Albee
1992-93: Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, by Tony Kushner
1991-92: The Kentucky Cycle, by Robert Schenkkan
1990-91: Lost in Yonkers, by Neil Simon
1989-90: The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson
1988-89: The Heidi Chronicles, by Wendy Wasserstein
1987 88: Driving Miss Daisy, by Alfred Uhry
1986-87: Fences, by August Wilson
1985-86: No award
1984-85: Sunday in the Park With George, by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim
1983-84: Glengarry Glen Ross, by David Mamet
1982-83: 'night, Mother, by Marsha Norman
1981 82: A Soldier's Play, by Charles Fuller
1980-81: Crimes of the Heart, by Beth Henley
1979-80: Talley's Folly, by Lanford Wilson
1978-79: Buried Child, by Sam Shepard
1977-78: The Gin Game, by D.L. Coburn
1976-77: The Shadow Box, by Michael Cristofer
1975-76: A Chorus Line, by Michael Bennett, James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban
1974-75: Seascape, by Edward Albee
1973 74: No award
1972-73: That Championship Season, by Jason Miller
1971-72: No award
1970-71: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, by Paul Zindel
1969-70: No Place To Be Somebody, by Charles Gordone
1968-69: The Great White Hope, by Howard Sackler
1967-68: No award
1966-67: A Delicate Balance, by Edward Albee
1965-66: No award
1964 65: The Subject Was Roses, by Frank D. Gilroy
1963-64: No award
1962-63: No award
1961-62: How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, by Abe Burrows and Frank Loesser
1960-61: All the Way Home, by Tad Mosel
1959-60: Fiorello!, by Jerome Weidman, George Abbott, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock
1958-59: J.B., by Archibald MacLeish
1957-58: Look Homeward, Angel, by Ketti Frings
1956-57: Long Day's Journey Into Night, by Eugene O'Neill
1955-56: The Diary of Anne Frank, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
1954-55: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams
1953-54: The Teahouse of the August Moon, by John Patrick
1952-53: Picnic, by William Inge
1951-52: The Shrike, by Joseph Kramm
1950-51: No award
1949-50: South Pacific, by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan
1948-49: Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
1947-48: A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams
1946-47: No award
1945-46: State of the Union, by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
1944-45: Harvey, by Mary Chase
1943-44: No award
1942-43: The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder
1941-42: No award
1940-41: There Shall Be No Night, by Robert E. Sherwood
1939-40: The Time of Your Life, by William Saroyan
1938-39: Abe Lincoln in Illinois, by Robert E. Sherwood
1937-38: Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
1936-37: You Can't Take It With You, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
1935-36: Idiot's Delight, by Robert E. Sherwood
1934-35: The Old Maid, by Zoe Akins
1933-34: Men in White, by Sidney Kingsley
1932-33: Both Your Houses, by Maxwell Anderson
1931-32: Of Thee I Sing, by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin
1930-31: Alison's House, by Susan Glaspell
1929-30: The Green Pastures, by Marc Connelly
1928-29: Street Scene, by Elmer Rice
1927-28: Strange Interlude, by Eugene O'Neill
1926-27: In Abraham's Bosom, by Paul Green
1925-26: Craig's Wife, by George Kelly
1924-25: They Knew What They Wanted, by Sidney Howard
1923-24: Hell-Bent fer Heaven, by Hatcher Hughes
1922-23: Icebound, by Owen Davis
1921-22: Anna Christie, by Eugene O'Neill
1920-21: Miss Lulu Bett, by Zona Gale
1919-20: Beyond the Horizon, by Eugene O'Neill
1918-19: No award
1917-18: Why Marry?, by Jesse Lynch Williams
1916-17: No award

For more information, visit pulitzer.org.

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