Clybourne Park Wins 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
By Andrew Gans
Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park is the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, recognizing an outstanding stage work that premiered during the 2010 calendar year. The winner was announced 3 PM April 18 at Columbia University.
The play, according to the Pulitzer committee, is described as a "powerful work whose memorable characters speak in witty and perceptive ways to America's sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness."
Also nominated as finalists were the Broadway-bound Detroit by Lisa D'Amour, a "contemporary tragicomic play that depicts a slice of desperate life in a declining inner-ring suburb where hope is in foreclosure"; and Lincoln Center Theater's A Free Man of Color by John Guare, "an audacious play spread across a large historical canvas, dealing with serious subjects while retaining a playful intellectual buoyancy."
Clybourne Park, Norris' riff on A Raisin in the Sun that examined race relations and the effects of modern gentrification, opened at Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons in February 2010. Directed by Pam MacKinnon, the production "begins in 1959 as a white family moves out," according to press notes. "In Act Two, it's 2009 and a white family moves in. In the intervening years, change overtakes a neighborhood, along with attitudes, inhabitants and property values. Loosely inspired by Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, this pitch-black comedy from Mr. Norris takes on the specter of gentrification in one of America's most recognizable communities — leaving no stone unturned in the process." The cast included Tony Award winner Frank Wood (Side Man, August: Osage County), Emmy Award nominee Annie Parisse (Becky Shaw, The Credeaux Canvas), Jeremy Shamos (100 Saints You Should Know, Gutenberg! The Musical!), Crystal A. Dickinson (Broke-ology), Brendan Griffin (Back Back Back), Damon Gupton (Inked Baby) and Christina Kirk (God's Ear, Suitcase, [sic]).
The London production of Clybourne Park recently received the Olivier Award for Best New Play.
Woolly Mammoth in Washington, DC, presented an acclaimed post-New York production of Clybourne Park in 2010. That staging, which earned eight 2011 Helen Hayes Awards nominations, will have a return engagement in DC July 21-Aug. 14.
In a statement Norris said, "I am deeply honored and totally flabbergasted to receive this recognition. I want to thank both Playwrights Horizons and Woolly Mammoth Theatre in DC for simultaneously taking a chance on this play, and to thank Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago for their ten years of support."
Playwrights Horizons artistic director Tim Sanford, who gave the play its world premiere, said, "The runs of Playwrights Horizons' productions are always finite. Our business is to launch new plays and launch them well. With so few plays transfering to commercial extended runs, we never know when a show like Clybourne Park — whose trenchant, timely satire was matched by its exquistiely rendered structure — had clearly not exhausted its potential audience when we had to close it last season. So the widespread life it has attained in the regional theatre and abroad is particularly satisfying as is this prestigious recognition, which I hope will lead to even further life."
The Pulitzer Jury included Peter Marks, drama critic, The Washington Post (Chair); Chris Jones, drama critic, Chicago Tribune; David Savran, distinguished professor of theatre, CUNY Graduate Center; Lynn Nottage, playwright, New York City; and Steven Leigh Morris, critic-at-large, LA Weekly.
Established in 1917 in honor of American journalist and publisher Joseph Pulitzer, the annual ceremony presents honors in 21 categories.
The award in drama, which includes a $10,000 prize, is "for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life," according to the official guidelines. "Productions opening in the United States between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2010 are eligible."
The Pulitzer committee accepts submissions; however, guidelines state that a play does not need to be formally submitted to be considered for the top honor. The committee also reserves the right not to name a winner in the category, which occurred most recently in 2006.
In 2010, the musical Next to Normal, by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, won the prize. Nominated as 2010 finalists were The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph (currently on Broadway); and Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room or the vibrator play.
The complete list of Pulitzer Prize in Drama winners is listed below:
2010: Next to Normal, by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt
For more information, visit pulitzer.org.
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