The Playgoer: Pultizer History

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Pultizer History

Turns out the Pulitzers have given a "No Award" to drama a previous 15 other times: 1917, 1919, 1942, 1944, 1947, 1951, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1986, 1997.

So the end need not be nigh, I suppose.

Just for fun, below is the complete list of past awardees. Not that it's terribly important, of course. But the list itself makes for a fascinating narrative of American Drama, doesn't it? Even if a skewed one.

Of course there are the titles you've never heard of. (Icebound, anyone?) Then the ones you know all to well but can't believe it's there. (Uh...Harvey?) But then, of course, sometimes they can't avoid getting it right. Even if, as is often bemoaned, the choices tend avoid the challenging and experimental in favor of the comforting.

Notice the "no award" years come in clusters, often at times of national crisis (World Wars, JFK assasination). In fact only four awards were given in the entire 1960s. The 70s barely fared better, with three no-shows. The data there seem so obviously symptomatic of a mainstream theatre in crisis. Dare I suggest we may be approaching a similar patch today?

Whether or not this year it was the Pulitzer committe who dropped the ball, or our theatres for not offering more vibrant fare, it's also worth examining the official criteria of the award itself:

For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.

Are we at a moment now where these strictures may not cover our best drama? In the age of the global village are we comfortable with how the committee is defining "American life" and writers? Does the "originality" demanded, unjustly exclude the flourishing forms of documentary (aka "verbatim") and adaptation?

Submitted for your approval, then, here are the Awardees for Best Drama by the Pulitzer committee in the years they chose to name one. (Note: I have cut and pasted all the entries directly from the "archive" data on the Pulitzer site. So all the wording here of the attributions is official Pulitzer-speak, except for some notes of mine in brackets.)

1918 Why Marry? by Jesse Lynch Williams
1920 Beyond the Horizon by Eugene O'Neill
1921 Miss Lulu Bett by Zona Gale
1922 Anna Christie by Eugene O'Neill
1923 Icebound by Owen Davis
1924 Hell-Bent Fer Heaven by Hatcher Hughes
1925 They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard [later, basis of Frank Loesser's Most Happy Fella]
1926 Craig's Wife by George Kelly
1927 In Abraham's Bosom by Paul Green
1928 Strange Interlude by Eugene O'Neill
1929 Street Scene by Elmer L. Rice
1930 The Green Pastures by Marc Connelly
1931 Alison's House by Susan Glaspell
1932 Of Thee I Sing by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin [music by George Gershwin not awarded]
1933 Both Your Houses by Maxwell Anderson
1934 Men in White by Sidney Kingsley
1935 The Old Maid by Zoe Akins
1936 Idiots Delight by Robert E. Sherwood
1937 You Can't Take It With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
1938 Our Town by Thornton Wilder
1939 Abe Lincoln in Illinois by Robert E. Sherwood
1940 The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan
1941 There Shall Be No Night by Robert E. Sherwood
1943 The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder
1945 Harvey by Mary Chase
1946 State of the Union by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay
1948 A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
1949 Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
1950 South Pacific by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, 2nd and Joshua Logan
1952 The Shrike by Joseph Kramm
1953 Picnic by William Inge
1954 The Teahouse of the August Moon by John Patrick
1955 Cat on A Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
1956 Diary of Anne Frank by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich
1957 Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill
1958 Look Homeward, Angel by Ketti Frings
1959 J. B. by Archibald Macleish
1960 Fiorello! by Book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott, Music by Jerry Bock and Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
1961 All The Way Home by Tad Mosel
1962 How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows
1965 The Subject Was Roses by Frank D. Gilroy
1967 A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee
1969 The Great White Hope by Howard Sackler
1970 No Place To Be Somebody by Charles Gordone
1971 The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel
1973 That Championship Season by Jason Miller
1975 Seascape by Edward Albee
1976 A Chorus Line by Conceived, choreographed and directed by Michael Bennett, with book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and lyrics by Edward Kleban
1977 The Shadow Box by Michael Cristofer
1978 The Gin Game by Donald L. Coburn
1979 Buried Child by Sam Shepard
1980 Talley's Folly by Lanford Wilson
1981 Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley
1982 A Soldier's Play by Charles Fuller
1983 'Night, Mother by Marsha Norman
1984 Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
1985 Sunday in the Park With George by Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine
1987 Fences by August Wilson
1988 Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry
1989 The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein
1990 The Piano Lesson by August Wilson
1991 Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon
1992 The Kentucky Cycle by Robert Schenkkan
1993 Angels in America: Millennium Approaches by Tony Kushner
1994 Three Tall Women by Edward Albee
1995 The Young Man From Atlanta by Horton Foote
1996 Rent by the late Jonathan Larson
1998 How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel
1999 Wit by Margaret Edson
2000 Dinner With Friends by Donald Margulies
2001 Proof by David Auburn
2002 Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
2003 Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz
2004 I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright
2005 Doubt, a parable by John Patrick Shanley


Anonymous said...

"all the wording here of the attributions is official Pulitzer-speak"

Yeah, I noticed something weird in the offical Pulitzer-speak earlier -- what's the deal with the official notice on Rent being to "the late Jonathan Larson?" As opposed to the "living" Jonathan Larson who might not have won? Why didn't Long Day's Journey... get identified in 1957 as being by "the late Eugene O'Neill?" Any other posthumous ones on here, and why did someone (the committee for 1996, probably) decide that it was essential to point up the author's deceasedness on that occasion?

Playgoer said...

Worth adding, I think...

In retrospect, don't the 80's look pretty good from this list? Especially when you consider it from Buried Child in '79 to Piano Lesson in '90. It's as if the groundswell of 70's off-broadway and regional theatre finally bubbled to the mainstream surface on Broadway.