The Playgoer: Inside Pulitzers '08

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Inside Pulitzers '08

In case you didn't notice, that big Arts & Leisure profile of Dennis Letts in the last Sunday's Times had a nice little scoop in it hinting at the backroom debates over the awarding of August: Osage County. Turns out it wasn't as much of a shoo-in as we all assumed:

This winter a panel of Pulitzer judges considered more than 150 works for best drama and recommended three finalists to the Pulitzer board. Lisa Portes, a Chicago director who was one of the Pulitzer judges making the first cut, said the panel was blown away by scenes in which most of the characters are in collective meltdown.

“The second-act family dinner scene alone could win the Pulitzer,” Ms. Portes said. There were other opinions. Hilton Als, in The New Yorker, compared that dinner scene to the silliness of Carol Burnett’s sketch “Mama’s Place.” (He also called Mr. Letts a provincial writer; “Oh man, my dad about went through the roof at that one,” Mr. Letts said.)

Peter Marks, the chairman of the Pulitzer jury for drama, actually gave “August” a lacerating review last December in The Washington Post, calling it a “disappointingly hollow experience” that lacked a “shattering payoff.” Mr. Marks said by e-mail that “my misgivings about the play are in print” and declined to comment further.

The story was written, by the way, not by one of the usual arts-entertainment beat crew, but ace political reporter Patrick Healy. Way to get folks on the record, Pat!

(Perhaps unrelated, but that "Miller's Pub" where the interview takes place? Stone's throw away from Obama campaign HQ.)


bob said...

Was the profile about dead dad Dennis or the playwright Tracy?

Anonymous said...

At least the critics got this one right (unlike Passing Strange). Even Isherwood admits "Mr. Letts is as yet more a skillful entertainer than a true visionary or a dramatic poet" and "I would not say it possesses the penetrating truth or the revelatory originality of a fully achieved work of art." Ben Brantley said it best, August: Osage County "allows theatergoers to feel they’ve experienced a Significant Play without being in any way challenged." It's a TV movie, not a play. It looked particularly week when place next to The Homecoming. I would have voted for "no award this year." It's the acting that deserved awards, not the play.

Anonymous said...

Yes, as noted above, the profile was actually about Tracy Letts, not his deceased father, Dennis.