The 1997 Pulitzer Prize committee could agree on no play written during from March 2, 1996 to March 1, 1997 to win the prestigious award for Drama.
Please share your reaction. Do you agree that there was no play of sufficient quality or stature this past year? Is the lack of an award a commentary on American playwriting? How would you have voted, given the three finalists (Last Night of Ballyhoo, Pride's Crossing and Collected Stories )?
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From Herbert M. Simpson:
The Pulitzer Prize for Drama has a terrible record: "Of Thee I Sing" preferred over "Mourning Becomes Electra"; "Fiorello!" judged a better drama than "Toys in the Attic" or "A Raisin in the Sun"; "How to Succeed in Business..." over "Oh Dad, Poor Dad..." and "The Night of the Iguana." Its years of "No Award" are even funnier: compare the list of what WAS worth a Pulitzer for drama in other years. "Darkness at Noon," "The Rose Tattoo," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", and "The Price" were unworthy, while in immediately adjacent years musicals like "South Pacific," and "How to Succeed...," were judged superior DRAMAS. Perhaps most embarrassing, especially considering what musicals' books did get Pulitzers, was the "No Award" '46-'47 season, which included "Finian's Rainbow" and "Brigadoon," as well as such unworthy plays as "Another Part of the Forest," "All My Sons," and "The Iceman Cometh"!
So it's hard to evaluate this year's decision. Given some of what's won, most recent nominees sound better. But considering what wasn't even outvoted or bettered but was deemed too unworthy for any award to be given that year ("The Iceman Cometh" or "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"), nothing recent seems worth even nominating. '85-'86 WAS a weak year. And this year's three nominees seem unremarkable. I haven't seen Paula Fogel's "How I Learned to Drive," which sounds like a likely nominee. Just to keep up the Pulitzer's standards, how about giving it to "Making Porn"? (4/16/97)
What about The Cider House Rules Part I and II by Peter Parnell from the novel by John Irving? It was one of the most innovative pieces of theatre that I have seen. Done with a cast of over 20 actors on a minimal set, this was an epic play about a definitive time in American history. I thought that it was uneligible because it was based on a novel. I did not know that it was simply preferred that it be original material. It is sad that this important play was overlooked. (4/8/97)
I am not shocked by the committee's decision not to award the Pulitzer Prize for Drama this year. In fact, when I tried to think of an obvious choice or two, nothing came to mind, and when I did decide on a play that I thought deserved it ("Stonewall Jackson's House"), I knew that that play was too controversial and esoteric to take the Pulitzer. Regardless, how prestigious and important can the Pulitzer be if "Young Man From Atlanta" was deemed worthy?
It needs to be mentioned that "Stonewall Jackson's House" was put up for consideration by the drama jury, which put up four plays. The judges did not even see fit to give it a nomination! How absurd!(4/7/97)
Christopher P. Nicholson, Sterling, VA:
An occasional non-award is good for the Pulitzer process. It's supposed to be an award of excellence, and excellence by its nature is never a given. I didn't see and can't judge any of the plays nominated by the Pulitzer committee, but the grand total of six responses to the PBOL poll soliciting suggested nominees is indicative of this year's underwhelming enthusiasm. The same thing happens regularly with the Tony Awards. Perhaps the Acadamy of Motion Pictures should take note. (4/7/97)