The Playgoer: Brantley Weighs In

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brantley Weighs In

...with a world-weary shrug:

Mr. McNulty’s spleen is to be applauded and even envied, since it suggests an idealism in his perception of the Pulitzers, a belief that they can still be a progressive force in promoting original voices in theater. And I can share his agitation to some extent, having myself been the chairman of the drama jury in 2007, when our finalists (all, admittedly, fairly obscure) were overridden by the board. We picked “Orpheus X,” by Rinde Eckert; “Bulrusher,” by Eisa Davis; and “Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue,” by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The prize went to David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole,” a mainstream family drama that, like “Next to Normal,” had been seen in a Broadway production.

But any annoyance I felt then was tempered by a weary awareness that the Pulitzers have usually gone to firmly middlebrow works, the majority of which are highly unlikely to blaze in the annals of posterity as daring innovators. They can be read as an index of solid bourgeois tastes over the years but not much more.

[...]

[T]he Pulitzer standard, by and large, seems to be that the play be like a painting you would feel comfortable having on your living room wall. A splash of topicality is always welcome, but only if it is leavened by sentimentality and structural tidiness. 
My question is: is it just Drama or are all the Pulitzer arts prizes similarly biased toward a wide-appeal or even milquetoast aesthetic. I don't know the other arts-winners, so tell us what you think:
  • Fiction: Tinkers by Paul Harding
  • Poetry: Versed by Rae Armantrout
  • Music: Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon
My other question is: Patrick Healy clearly has been working on a Pulitzer story, so why did the Times instead today run Brantley's "no big deal" essay and a Healy article about The Addams Family's boffo box office?  The latter on Page One, no less.

Need I explain any further why theatre's value to the news media has only to do with revenue generation? (Next to Normal, turns out, is something of a hit too.)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Mr. McNulty’s spleen is to be applauded and even envied, since it suggests an idealism in his perception of the Pulitzers, a belief that they can still be a progressive force in promoting original voices in theater."

So Ben envies McNulty's spleen. Good for him. Now can he please fuck off and let somehow who gives shit take over that job? You know what else could be a force in promoting original voices in the theater? A top Times theater critic who makes it a priority to find and celebrate them. And I wouldn’t include the vastly overrated T.A. McCraney in that.

The Playgoer said...

Regarding the running of Healy's story, I see now that it did appear in print today...in a small sidebar buried in the inner Arts section (next to the continuation of the Brantley column).

Anonymous said...

I thought Brantley's article was great -- and if it was given prominence over Healy's reporting, that makes sense since Brantley actually served as a CHAIR of a Pulitzer Jury in which THE SAME THING HAPPENED just 3 years ago. I thought Brantley should be complimented just like McNulty for raising their voice when the easy choice would have been to just say nothing. Healy did a great job as well. I appreciated having some knowledge about where people stood -- otherwise we all just would have been wondering WTF?! about this decision for years!