The 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama is scheduled to be announced April 14. The award is given annually for outstanding new American plays, and aspires to the highest standards in its choices.
Playbill On-Line asked readers to predict the American play you think will win this year.
This year's prize will be given for plays that open between March 2, 1997 and March 1, 1998.
The 1996 winner was Jonathan Larson's Rent; but the committee found no script worthy of the award in 1997.
A complete list of winners can be found in Theatre News.Playbill On-Line thanks in all who took the time to write. Here are the results:
Perhaps it would be wise to consider what the Pulitzer standards are when predicting the winner. As I recall, one of the criteria... in addition to performance in New York City within a certain period of time... is that the script depicts and upholds American values. It's a kind of nebulous and kind of conservative consideration... it also largely dismisses GROSS INDECENCY, if only for its depictation of an Irish author battling the English judiciary system. RAGTIME would seem the likely choice, especially since, it has attracted such wide national attention in addition to a Broadway run. But it is possible that HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE might be considered up to the very end.
Laura Weinstein (LunaWonton@aol.com):
I'm not too up-to-date on the straight plays on Broadway. However, I do think that the musical RAGTIME is very deserving of the award. Granted, musicals rarely win (applause for RENT -- it was certainly deserving), but Ragtime goes above most musicals. It's depth and profound messages, along with the brilliant score get into your heart. The social issues regarding Coalhouse Walker Jr.'s justice go beyond just black and white. The musical had me crying and laughing, and always rooting for the "good guys." It made me CARE about the characters and what was going to happen to them, even though I had already read the book.
From Buxton Hill:
RAGTIME is a worthy show, perhaps for the Tony, but the substantive qualities that are admirable in it were there in the book and received Pulitzer attention at the time. The method of presenting this material is exciting, but that may not be what the Pulitzer committee will focus on.
THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD, GROSS INDECENCY and HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE seem to me to be the chief candidates, and in that order.
My vote? HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH: a smart, theatrically knowing show that has plenty to say and a great deal of generosity in saying it.
From Mervin Lass, Toronto:
Is there any doubt? Ragtime covers the history of America after the turn of the century from A to Z. A work like this comes along only once in a generation.
From Annette Beavers:
I think TITANIC should win.It was so powerful and touching. GO TITANIC
Having skimmed through the number of letters Playbill On-Line already received, I see several Ragtimes, a few Gross Indecencies, and several How I Learned To Drives. However, I only saw one Side Show, which undoubtedly deserves the Pulitzer Prize, but has slim to no chances of receiving it because of its premature demise. Though Side Show told us of Siamese twins, it was a truly all-encompassing story that brought out the freak in all of us. As we watched Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner's masterful performances as Violet and Daisy Hilton, we could relate to every moment, knowing what it feels like to have dreams you may never achieve, to be shunned, and, if we are lucky, to finally achieve self-love. Above all else, it was a story of human triumph whose symbolic value went so deep that it could be viewed from countless angles. The Pulitzer Prize should award such artistry without even considering the most amazing score (which expertly bounced between period pieces, jazz, rock and pop ballads) since the golden age of the musical. If the Pulitzer Prize committee can make the jump off of their high horse, they will see Side Show as a landmark theatrical piece that may indicate another golden age is about to come upon us.
From John Esche (email@example.com):
We are unusually blessed this year with strong candidates for Pulitzer recognition, but recognizing that according to the Pulitzer charter, one of the elements of the honoree is supposed to be depiction of life in America, I would say the strongest candidates narrow down to Wendy Wasserstein's AMERICAN DAUGHTER (unfairly overlooked for last season's Tony as Best Play on Broadway which it certainly was - 'though the much earlier opening ...BALLYHOO was worthy), Paula Vogel's superb HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE, the overwhelming turn-of-the-century epoch from McNally, Ahrens and Flaherty (by way of Doctorow) RAGTIME (which deserves on content to narrowly edge out Julie Taymor's masterful LION KING for this year's Tony but may not), David Mamet's harrowing OLD NEIGHBORHOOD and John Leguizamo's by turns hilarious and poignant monodrama, FREAK.
The choice between those five would indeed be difficult, but I would narrow it down to HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE and RAGTIME based on minor flaws in the resolution of the Wasserstein, the ultimate shallowness of the yuppy complaint at the heart of the Mamet and the *perceived* lightness of the Leguizamo.
Between the two remaining contenders, I would reluctantly lean toward RAGTIME because of the range of issues so well treated and most especially the moving recognition of culture shock, as much a problem today as 80 years ago, perfectly captured in "New Music". The craftsmanship and subtlety Paula Vogel brings to HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE are no less impressive, and she is an author who one day soon SHOULD have Pulitzer recognition, but this year I think the competition narrowly edges her out.
From Josh Israel, Barrington, RI :
RAGTIME without question---the most important show about America in an awfully long time. It is CERTAINLY worthy of being in the company of the handful of other musicals to win the award.
From Jean Swartz:
My vote is for Gross Indecency. It is one of the best productions offered this year. The entire cast was superb.
They just gave it to a musical two years ago, with "Rent." Why has no one mentioned David Mamet's wonderful, autobiographical "Old Neighborhood," which is about Jewish identity and growing up in Chicago? And how about the insightful Leopold and Loeb play "Never the Sinner" or Rita Dove's "The Darker Face of the Earth," which is a fabulous first play about slavery? OK, it hasn't been done in NY -- but neither was "Kentucky Cycle" before it won.
From Tom Mull, Ann Arbor, MI:
Without a doubt, the 98 Pulitzer should go to RAGTIME (Book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens). The show manages to completely capture E.L. Doctorow's novel and teaches us about the end of this century by showing us the beginning it. Never once does the show "wink" at the audience and say "see, things haven't changed that much"--the authors assume that their audience is intelligent enough to see the relevance of the personal stories and let us draw our own conclusions.
RAGTIME also manages to present so many issues which were relevant at the beginning of the century and still are today: women's rights, racism and the relationships between races, the plight of immigrants and the working class, celebrity and the media, and the changing family "structure". And it accomplishes all of this by telling the stories of the individual characters. How refreshing to see a "mega-musical" which allows the actors to come down center sans scenery, turn-tables, fog, roller-skates, or strange head-gear (more fitting a rock-concert than a Broadway musical) and act. RAGTIME is a masterpiece, no matter what the boys from the Times think. This show inspires, educates, enlightens, and entertains--everything that theatre
From Brad Baker, Director of Theatre, Collin County Community College, Plano, TX:
John Leguizamo's FREAKS should win this year's Pulitzer. Why? Because it takes the most dramatic and social risks of any play this year. . . while remaining the most entertaining piece of theatre in NY!
Not even close -- "How I Learned to Drive". Best new American play in years.
From Michael Shannon Burke, Clifton Park, NY:
Frankly, there have been many wonderful theatrical experiences to behold in 1997-1998 season. But I would have to single out two for consideration for the Pulitzer. First, "Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde" was the best straight play I've ever seen. Brilliantly written and directed by Moises Kaufman, it is a powerful presentation on themes of justice and injustice, love and commitment, and the nature of humanity's treatment of celebrities, homosexuals, and the courts. I laughed uproariously throughout, and cried more than once. And lastly, it has been on my mind for the three months since I've seen it. It is as worthy as any other show that has ever won. Next, if the judges are in a musical state of mind, "Side Show" was tops last year. A beautiful score was performed by a talented cast, who asked the repeated musical question, "Who Will Love Me as I Am." What is the nature of love? Between lovers, sisters? What is the cost of human dignity? Henry Kreiger's score was perfectly, and memorably, suited to these questions, striking the right emotional chords throughout. Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley were wonderfully vibrant and pathetic as the Hilton sisters. The supporting cast was also terrific. It seems to me that these shows achieved what truly great shows do achieve: adding to the basic elements of theatre an emotional connection of such intensity that the theatregoer is a little changed at the last curtain. Also, perhaps, they should win because the writers and producers put together highly original, and thus risky, shows.
From Andrew Beck:
My nominee for the '98 Pulitzer would be Moises Kaufmann's "Gross Indecency." Yes, not one word is truly Kaufmann's--but it represents a clever, careful compilation, re ordering and rethinking of a variety of sources, both historic and contemporary, in such a thoroughly compelling way as to breathe new life and new soul into those words. Kaufmann's sense of drama, staging and timing--which must also be apparent in the printed version of the play- create something new and breathtaking that is quite a unique, American literary accomplishment. (But if you consider "Gross Indecency" to be ineligible, then I'd nominate John Logan's equally remarkable "Never the Sinner"--oops, is too much of the actual trial testimony there too?
From Elizabeth Robbins:
My vote is going to Ragtime. I'm not going to reiterate what the others have already written, but i completely agree with what has been said about the show. it's nice to see such a wonderful collaboration of music, script, production, and talent. It's nice to see this type of show back on Broadway.
From C. Evans:
I would have to send my vote to "Gross Indecency." I have never been a fan of the courtroom drama, but I must say I held on to every word of this play. What could have been a slow drawn out transcript of the three trials is truly a theatrical event.
From Jim Malloy:
Although I am sure I am not familiar with most of the eligible works, I can not believe there was a more deserving production than "Ragtime". An absolutely perfect combination of masterful writing and effective staging, "Ragtime" speaks to the ages about what is the best and worst of this nation in this century. It would truly be a worthy addition to the Pulitzer alumni.
From Rodney Swanger, Tokyo, Japan:
RAGTIME: Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.A remarkable tapestry of historical and symbolic characters meshed together in an epic drama - musical poem on the beginning of 20 Century America. A preciously rare achievement for the American musical theater. How many musicals have even come close? Put simply: a masterpiece!
I honestly think that Ragtime deserves the Pulitzer this year. It is a powerful and moving story of what has been one of the biggest problems for our world to deal with -- prejudice and racism. The show teaches us that we really can, and must, all live together as a planet instead as of individual groups and races.