The Pulitzer Prizes are announced today. This is always a tough drama award to predict because: A) it is first award of season, B) nominees are not announced beforehand, C) nominees can be overruled, D) no award may be given, E) the available pool can be large and obscure.
Last year, there were several strong New York City plays – and while two ended up as finalists: Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz and Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam, the winner was a surprise. Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Water by the Spoonful had only been produced once and that was at the Long Wharf. The play had barely registered with any theatre pundits and was certainly not on any radar screens. In retrospect it should not have been a complete shocker since she had previously been a finalist on two separate occasions.
In 2010, the jurors had recommended three plays but were overruled by the Pulitzer Committee (which is its right). The award went to Next to Normal which had opened the previous season, but was eligible. That year the Pulitzers moved from a summer to spring eligibility season to a calendar year eligibility season.
So where does that leave this year? If I were a betting man, I’d say there is a good chance that there will not be an award this year. The last time that happened was 2006. There were some well reviewed and well-received plays in 2012, but nothing which has really captured the imagination in the way that Proof, Doubt, August: Osage County or Ruined have done in the past few years. But then considering that Water by the Spoonful and Anna in the Tropics had not had New York City bookings prior to their selection, it is hard to say.
The closest thing to a frontrunner is Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles. It was a hit for Lincoln Center Theatre and now a favorite of regional theatres. It could have been submitted last year but was not. Herzog also had The Great God Pan at Playwright’s Horizons. Also at PH was Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale and Dan LeFranc’s The Big Meal.
Other titles include Stephen Belber’s Don’t Go Gentle at MCC; Nick Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet played at Roundabout as did Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews; Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced was presented by Lincoln Center Theatre. Lincoln Center also produced Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which has transferred to Broadway. It started out at McCarter Theatre in New Jersey. There really are no other Broadway shows of merit which opened before January 1.
Previous winner Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way (which explored Lyndon Baines Johnson) played to acclaim at Oregon Shakespeare. Previous finalist Wil Eno has two plays which might appear: Title and Deed and The Realistic Joneses.
Will any of these even be a finalist? Will there be an award this year? Only time will tell. In a few hours all will be revealed.