John Patrick Shanley's Doubt Wins 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

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04 Apr 2005

John Patrick Shanley
John Patrick Shanley
Photo by Aubrey Reuben
Doubt, the frontrunner for this season's theatre laurels since it opened Off-Broadway last fall, has won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Columbia University's School of Journalism announced on April 4.

Finalists for the honor included Will Eno's Thom Pain (based on nothing) and Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House. Jury members were Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune—chair), Fran Dorn (University of Texas—Austin), Robert Hurwitt (San Franisco Chronicle), Charles Isherwood (New York Times) and Wendy Wasserstein (playwright).

John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, which reopened on Broadway on March 31 to a second bushel of laudatory reviews, is about a clash of values and wills within a Catholic school in 1964.

For the 2005 drama prize, works produced between March 2, 2004, and March 1, 2005, are considered. The work had to be produced and receive a press opening within the deadline dates.

Pulitzer rules state the prize go to "a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life."



The Pulitzer is the first significant theatre prize Shanley has claimed in his quarter century as a playwright. He is expected to seize many more for Doubt, including the Tony Award for Best Play.

In Doubt, a nun in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964 suspects a popular priest of inappropriate behavior with a student. Armed with nothing more than a resolute belief in her suspicion and a few circumstantial details, she instigates a relentless campaign to remove the priest, enlisting the help of a subordinate nun and the child's tormented mother. The simple, yet ever-shifting plot leaves all four characters and the audience wondering whether they were justified in their thoughts, motives and actions.

Here are thumbnail looks at the finalists:

  • The Clean House: Sarah Ruhl's play about a Portuguese domestic and the family she works for has been embraced by critics in resident productions (Yale Rep, Philly's Wilma Theater), and looks to become of the most-produced titles around the country (it's expected in New York City in the coming year). The play, which already won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, is a comedic account of a home in disarray in which a successful doctor discovers that her husband is having an affair with one of his patients. Meanwhile, the maid would rather spend her day telling jokes than clean. The doctor's sister strikes a deal with the maid, taking on the cleaning tasks.

  • Thom Pain (based on nothing): Will Eno's critically celebrated short play, now enjoying an extended Off-Broadway run, is billed as "a wry monologue in which an ordinary man, Thom Pain, muses on childhood, yearning, disappointment and loss, cataloging the eternal agonies of the human condition as he draws his audience into his last-ditch plea for empathy and enlightenment." The work debuted in London at the Soho Theatre as a reading, then played at the Edinburgh Festival, before returning for a limited run at the Soho. Hal Brooks directs the work in New York. Eno recently won Newsday's George Oppenheimer Award as Most Promising Playwright for The Flu Season. The writer is an Edward Albee protégé whose style has often been compared to that of the elder playwright.

    *

    The Pulitzer Prize — named for American journalist and publisher 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?.

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

    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