Who'll Get the 2012 Pulitzer for Drama? Other Desert Cities? Prophet? Speculation Swirls

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06 Apr 2012

Stockard Channing, Rachel Griffiths and Stacy Keach in <i>Other Desert Cities</i>
Stockard Channing, Rachel Griffiths and Stacy Keach in Other Desert Cities
Photo by Joan Marcus

Last year at this time, as Playbill was polling theatre pundits about possible recipients of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, many assumed that Jon Robin Baitz's widely praised family drama Other Desert Cities was the obvious front-runner.

But Lincoln Center Theater shook its head at the suggestion. The production did not officially open at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre until January 2011 (previews began in December 2010), and was thus not eligible for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Pulitzer rules clearly stated, "Productions opening in the United States between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2010 are eligible."

A year has passed — the 2012 Pulitzers and finalists in a number of literary and journalistic divisions get announced April 16 — and now it looks like it may now be Robbie's turn. (Baitz is known to his intimates by that diminutive.) And, as luck would have it, the play is still running. Other Desert Cities transferred to Broadway on Nov. 3, 2011, where it still plays. So if the Pulitzer jurors (who make the recommendations) and the Pulitzer judges (who choose the winner) want to refresh their memory as to the quality of the script, they have ready access to the living, breathing premiere production. Remember what a last-minute visit by the judges to the un-recommended Next to Normal did to the 2010 race?

Should Baitz win, the honor will be long in coming for the one-time golden boy of the American theatre. The dramatist's talent has been critically praised since The Film Society bowed in 1987. But, a quarter century and a dozen plays later, his career has been more roller-coaster that steady incline. The closest he came to the Pulitzer was in 1996, when A Fair Country, one of Baitz's best-regarded plays, was a finalist for the prize. Other Desert Cities is, in fact, the first Broadway play for Baitz, who is now 50.

Nearly every one of the dozen critics, press agents and pundits who were polled for this article assumed Other Desert Cities was running well ahead of the pack. And those who didn't assume that thought the play had been eligible in 2011. As one observer commented, "The more interesting guessing game [this year] is who will the finalists be."

Read the Playbill Vault entry about the 2011 winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Clybourne Park, currently playing on Broadway. 


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