David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole Wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama

By Zachary Pincus-Roth
and Robert Simonson
16 Apr 2007

Tyne Daly and Cynthia Nixon in Pulitzer Prize winner Rabbit Hole.
Tyne Daly and Cynthia Nixon in Pulitzer Prize winner Rabbit Hole.
Photo by Joan Marcus

David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole, which opened in February 2006 at Manhattan Theatre Club's Biltmore Theatre on Broadway, has won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The five-person jury for the drama prize had nominated three plays — Orpheus X by Rinde Eckert; Bulrusher by Eisa Davis; and Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue by Quiara Alegria Hudes — however, the overall Pulitzer Prize Board chose to award the prize to a play that hadn't been nominated.

Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, explained at an April 16 press conference that none of the finalists nominated by the jury received a majority vote from the 19-person Board (a finalist must get a majority vote from the Board in order to be named a winner). As a result, the Board decided to consider a work that was not one of the nominated finalists — which it can do as long as three-fourths of the Board votes to do so. The Board voted to consider Rabbit Hole because "Rabbit Hole was mentioned favorably in the jury's report," Gissler said, even though it wasn't nominated. Once the Board decided to consider Rabbit Hole, the play then simply needed to receive a majority vote from the Board to win.

Gissler was uncertain about whether this kind of special case had happened before in the drama category, but noted that it had happened before in other categories.

The jury included Ben Brantley (chief drama critic, The New York Times), Kimberly W. Benston (Francis B. Gummere Professor of English at Haverford College), Karen D'Souza (drama critic for the San Jose Mercury News), Rohan Preston (theatre critic for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul) and Paula Vogel (playwright, Professor of English at Brown University).



Playwright Lindsay-Abaire is respected for such quirky, freewheeling Off-Broadway comedies as Fuddy Meers and Kimberly Akimbo, but his more serious Rabbit Hole is about a family recovering from the death of a child. The play received five Tony nominations, including Best Play (it lost the Best Play Tony to The History Boys). Cynthia Nixon received the Tony for her performance as a mother grieving the loss of her young son.

"The [Rabbit Hole] rehearsal process was difficult for everybody," said playwright Lindsay-Abaire at a 2006 Tony Awards press event. Stars "Cynthia Nixon and John Slattery have kids the same age as the boy in the play. Once we were up and running, you sort of forgot about that for a while. Then, when I'd revisit it, with friends or relatives who were experiencing the play for the first time, it would remind me how scary the stuff was that I wrote about."

Lindsay-Abaire wrote the drama after fellow playwright Marsha Norman — who was his teacher at Juilliard — told him to write a play about something that frightened him. A father, Lindsay-Abaire began shaping a story about a husband and wife who lose their only child in a freak car accident.

According to the writer, other parents who attended performances at Manhattan Theatre Club's Biltmore Theatre approached him after seeing the play. Some had come to the production on purpose, having heard about the subject matter. Others stumbled upon it by accident. "It really affected parents more than anything," he said.

The Pulitzer Prize winner was announced April 16 at Columbia University, which bestows the award, considered the most prestigious prize for American playwriting.

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According to the Pulitzer website, the award is "for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life" and "productions opening in the United States between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2006 are eligible." This year is only the second year that the drama prize has used the calendar year, as opposed to the previous system of considering plays between March of one year and March of the next. A small jury of theatre critics and artists determines the nominated finalists, and the overall Pulitzer Prize Board picks a winner.

The Pulitzer Prize — named for American journalist and publisher Joseph Pulitzer — was established in 1917, a stipulation of Pulitzer's will. The first Pulitzer Prize in Drama was awarded in 1918 to Jesse Lynch Williams' Why Marry?.

The list of previous Pulitzer Prize for Drama winners is listed below:

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, 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