Topdog/Underdog Awarded 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Drama

News   Topdog/Underdog Awarded 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Drama The 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Drama was awarded April 8 to Suzan-Lori Parks' play Topdog/Underdog.
Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright in Topdog/Underdog.
Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright in Topdog/Underdog. (Photo by Photo by Michal Daniel)

The 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Drama was awarded April 8 to Suzan-Lori Parks' play Topdog/Underdog.

Parks is the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

The announcement comes mere hours after the producers of Topdog, which opened on Broadway April 7, woke up to some of the best reviews of the season. Winners of this year's Pulitzer Prizes were distributed to members of the press at 3 PM on April 8 at Columbia University's School of Journalism. Professor Seymour Topping, administrator of the awards, held a news conference at 3:30 PM to officially announce the winner.

The finalists were Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith and The Glory of Living by Rebecca Gilman. MCC produced the Gilman Off-Broadway last fall. Yellowman has been touring the country for some months and is expected at Manhattan Theatre Club next season.

Women are not necessarily strangers to the Pulitzer. Zona Gale won the third Pulitzer Prize for Drama ever bestowed, back in 1921, and the past few years have seen Margaret Edson and Paula Vogel claim the award. Wins by African-American men are considerably more rare, with August Wilson being the only victor in recent years. Parks' victory comes only two weeks after Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the Academy Award for best actress. Topdog/Underog is currently playing Broadway's Ambassador Theatre after a hit engagement downtown at Joseph Papp's Public Theater. In Parks' charged drama, Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def portray two brothers, unfortunately named Booth and Lincoln, vying for the spots of "Topdog" and "Underdog."

George C. Wolfe, who helmed another Pulitzer Prize winner, Angels in America, directed both the Off-Broadway and Broadway incarnations. Ms. Parks is the recipient of a 2001 MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award and has written more than 15 plays, including The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, The America Play, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (Obie Award), Venus (Obie Award), Fuckin' A and In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist).

This year's jury consisted of Ben Brantley of the New York Times, Robert Brustein, critic for the New Republic and the San Francisco Chronicle's Steven Winn.

Playbill On-Line spoke to Parks two hours after the award was announced. Click here to view our Brief Encounter interview.

The Pulitzer Prize in Drama is awarded annually to "a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life." Productions that opened between March 2, 2001, and March 1, 2002, are eligible. Although the Pulitzer is based on production, the rules stipulate that "eligible playscripts may be submitted to the Pulitzer Office for forwarding to the Drama Jury." Those entries must be completed by March 1, 2002, and require a completed entry form, photograph and biography of the playwright, dates and place of production and six copies of the play.

The Pulitzer Prize — named for American journalist Joseph Pulitzer — was established in 1917, a stipulation of Mr. Pulitzer's will. The first Pulitzer Prize in Drama was awarded in 1918 to Jesse Lynch Williams' Why Marry?. Last season's winner was David Auburn's Proof, a four person drama about an aging mathematical genius, his daughters and one of his students. Other recent recipients include Dinner with Friends, Wit, How I Learned to Drive, Rent, The Young Man From Atlanta, Three Tall Women and Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. Occasionally, no production is deemed Pulitzer-worthy, and no prize is awarded. The last time this situation occurred was the 1996-97 season.

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

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, Willie Gilbert, Jack Weinstock 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, Ira and George 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

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To view Playbill On-Line's review of the published version of Topdog/Underdog, click here.