The Five- How to Pretend to Know Anything About the Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Anthony Miller, making your life just a little bit easier.

Hey you guys, I’m sure a lot of you are super stoked for Hamilton winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Sometimes it seems like organizations are inventing awards just to create an excuse to get the cast to perform on their show, while some are highlighting awards no one previously knew existed (I’m looking at you, Grammy Awards). Before we go running into the streets once again to celebrate Hamilton as the savior of American theater and the greatest thing since the last greatest thing ever, ask yourself, “What is a Pulitzer Prize for Drama anyway?” Funny you should ask, because I’ve got you covered. I’ve compiled a handy list of Pulitzer Prize for Drama trivia that you can wow your peers with at your next fancy theatre party, or at the bar. And wouldn’t you know it, there are five.

How Do You Win?
The criteria has changed over the years, but one thing remains, it must be an American play. The official criteria (as listed on their website) are as follows: “For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.”

Are Winners Rich?
The winner gets $10,000. The first winner, Why Marry? by Jesse Lynch Williams in 1918, got $1000. So no, not really.

What Other Musicals Have Won?
There have been 8. Of Thee I Sing by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin (1932), South Pacific by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, and Joshua Logan (1950), Fiorello! by Jerome Widman, George Abbott, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (1960), How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows (1962), A Chorus Line, by Michael Bennett, James Kirkwood Jr., Marvin Hamlisch, Nicolas Dante and Edward Kleban (1976), Sunday in the Park With George by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine (1985), RENT, by Jonathan Larson (1996), and Next To Normal, by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (2010).

Is There One Every Year?
Even though there are nominees every year, there is not always a winner. The following years had no official recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama: 1917, 1919, 1942, 1944, 1947, 1951, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1986, 1997, 2006.

Has Anyone Won More Than Once?
Eugene O’Neill has 4: Beyond The Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), Strange Interlude (1928), and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1957). Edward Albee has 3: A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975), Three Tall Women (1994). August Wilson and Thornton Wilder both have 2. You can also mention that this is not the first time Lin-Manuel Miranda was nominated: In The Heights was a finalist in 2009 but lost to Ruined by Lynn Nottage.

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Producer and a Big Theatre Nerd, keep up with his projects at www.awesometheatre.org and on twitter @armiller78.

Advertisements

In For a Penny: August of Our Years

Charles Lewis III, meditating on August.

Seven Guitars programme

“So when I saw two hundred niggas stunned into silence by the power of art in the music of John Coltrane and his exploration of man’s relation to the divinity, that’s when I got interested in jazz. And also, as a young man wanting to be a writer, I said, ‘This is what I want my art to do. I want to accomplish that’.”
-August Wilson, November 2004

This February would have been the 70th birthday of one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th century. This October will mark the ten-year anniversary of his death. For the best and worst reasons, 2015 is year of the late August Wilson.

April 27th was observed as “August Wilson Day”, revivals have sprung up everywhere – here in the Bay Area, Oakland’s Lower Bottom Playaz are staging King Hedley with Radio Golf set for December, and SF’s Multi-Ethnic Theater staging Two Trains Running – and radio station WNYC is hosting readings of his entire American Century Cycle with name actors.

All fitting tributes for a man who, to this day, can be a divisive figure in the Black community.

Talking about theatre in general can be a divisive topic in the Black community, mainly due to incredibly myopic perceptions. Someone remembers reading A Raisin in the Sun in school, maybe seeing a Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk matinee, and maybe hearing the name “Lynn Nottage” thrown about. Black theatre artists have to fight the perception that theatre is a “bougie” hobby that occasionally produces a nice gospel play that you can take your mother to.

August Wilson never made those plays. It’s all the more paradoxical that his work would ever be considered “bougie” when he was told his writing would never appeal to White audiences. Jazz played crucial role in his writing and his dialogue took on a musical quality. It was also unapologetically political, though not in the way of an Amiri Baraka.

Wilson wrote from a personal place and fought hard to maintain the artistic integrity of his work. He shunned Paramount Pictures’ offer to adapt his Pulitzer-winning Fences because the studio wouldn’t hire a Black director. The lack of a Hollywood adaptation might explain a lack of greater recognition of his work. He wasn’t a media darling like former Black theatre staple Tyler Perry, so an audience that doesn’t attend theatre regularly is unaware of Wilson’s importance.

I first saw Wilson’s work in 1995 as a high school sophomore. The ACT hosted the West Coast premiere of Seven Guitars and I caught the post-show talkback with castmember Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Santiago-Hudson is behind the WYNC readings and reprises his role of Canewell. It excites me to think who might listen to those readings. I’d like to think that somewhere some “bougie” Black kid will have his/her first taste of one of American theatre’s greatest voices and be inspired to use his/her own. Who knows?