The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was first awarded in 1918.The drama jury, which consists of one academic and four critics, attends plays in New York and in regional theaters. The Pulitzer board has the authority to overrule the jury's choice, however, as happened in 1986 when the jury chose the CIVIL warS to receive the prize, but due to the board's opposition no award was given.In 1955, Joseph Pulitzer, Jr. pressured the prize jury into presenting the Prize to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which the jury considered the weakest of the five shortlisted nominees ("amateurishly constructed... from the stylistic points of view annoyingly pretentious"), instead of Clifford Odets' The Flowering Peach (their preferred choice) or The Bad Seed, their second choice. Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was selected for the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Drama by that award's committee. However, the committee's selection was overruled by the award's advisory board, the trustees ofColumbia University, because of the play's then-controversial use of profanity and sexual themes. Had Albee been awarded, he would be tied with Eugene O'Neill for the most Pulitzer Prizes for Drama (four).For a complete list please visit: http://www.pulitzer.org/bycat/Drama
2011: Clybourne Park – Bruce NorrisClybourne Park spans two generations fifty years apart. In 1959, Russ and Bev are selling their desirable two-bedroom at a bargain price, unknowingly bringing the first black family into the neighborhood (borrowing a plot line from Lorraine Hansberry’sA Raisin in the Sun) and creating ripples of discontent among the cozy white residents of Clybourne Park. In 2009, the same property is being bought by a young white couple, whose plan to raze the house and start again is met with equal disapproval by the black residents of the soon-to-be-gentrified area. Are the issues festering beneath the floorboards actually the same, fifty years on? Bruce Norris’s excruciatingly funny and squirm-inducing satire explores the fault line between race and property.
2009 Ruined – Lynn NottageA searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness.
2008: August: Osage County – Tracy Letts
"The most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years."--The New York Times
2007: Rabbit Hole – David Lindsay-Abaire
A stunning play about carrying on in the shadow of loss.
2005: Doubt: A Parable – John Patrick Shanley
In this brilliant and powerful drama, Sister Aloysius, a Bronx school principal, takes matters into her own hands when she suspects the young Father Flynn of improper relations with one of the male students.
2004: I Am My Own Wife – Doug Wright
From the Obie Award-winning author of Quills comes this acclaimed one-man show, which explores the astonishing true story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. A transvestite and celebrated antiques dealer who successfully navigated the two most oppressive regimes of the past century-the Nazis and the Communists--while openly gay and defiantly in drag, von Mahlsdorf was both hailed as a cultural hero and accused of colluding with the Stasi. In an attempt to discern the truth about Charlotte, Doug Wright has written "at once a vivid portrait of Germany in the second half of the twentieth century, a morally complex tale about what it can take to be a survivor, and an intriguing meditation on everything from the obsession with collecting to the passage of time" (Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times).
2003: Anna in the Tropics – Nilo Cruz
The play is set in Ybor City, a section of Tampa and the center of the cigar industry. When Cuban immigrants brought the cigar-making industry to Florida in the 19th century, they carried with them another tradition. As the workers toiled away in the factory hand rolling each cigar, the lector, (historically well-dressed and well-spoken), would read to them. It was the lector who informed, organized and entertained the workers until the 1930s, when the rollers and the readers were replaced by mechanization.
In the play, the lector reads Anna Karenina, sparking the characters' lives and relationships to spin out of control.
2002: Topdog/Underdog – Suzan-Lori Parks
A darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity is Suzan-Lori Parks' latest riff on the way we are defined by history. The play tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two brothers whose names were given to them as a joke, foretelling a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by the past, the brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of their future.
2001: Proof – David Auburn
Proof is a work that explores the unknowability of love as much as it does the mysteries of science.
It focuses on Catherine, a young woman who has spent years caring for her father, Robert, a brilliant mathematician in his youth who was later unable to function without her help. His death has brought into her midst both her sister, Claire, who wants to take Catherine back to New York with her, and Hal, a former student of Catherine's father who hopes to find some hint of Robert's genius among his incoherent scribblings. The passion that Hal feels for math both moves and angers Catherine, who, in her exhaustion, is torn between missing her father and resenting the great sacrifices she made for him. For Catherine has inherited at least a part of her father's brilliance -- and perhaps some of his instability as well. As she and Hal become attracted to each other, they push at the edges of each other's knowledge, considering not only the unpredictability of genius but also the human instinct toward love and trust.
2000: Dinner with Friends – Donald Margulies
Gabe and Karen, a happily married middle-aged couple, have been friends with Tom and Beth, another married couple, for many years. In fact, it was Gabe and Karen who fixed up their friends in the first place. While having dinner at Gabe and Karen's home, Beth tearfully reveals that she is getting a divorce from Tom, who has been unfaithful. Tom, who had been away on business, finds out that Beth has told their friends about the looming divorce, and hastens to Gabe and Karen's home. Tom and Beth had planned to tell their friends about their breakup together, but Tom now believes that Beth has unfairly presented herself as the wronged party, and feels he must present his own side of the story.
Over the course of the play, we see both couples at different ages and stages of their lives, and we witness the effects of Tom and Beth's breakup on Gabe and Karen, who first feel compelled to choose sides, and then begin to question the strength of their own seemingly tranquil marriage. They also begin to see the real meaning behind their friendships with Tom and Beth.
1999: Wit – Margaret Edson
Margaret Edson’s powerfully imagined Pulitzer Prize–winning play examines what makes life worth living through her exploration of one of existence’s unifying experiences—mortality—while she also probes the vital importance of human relationships. What we as her audience take away from this remarkable drama is a keener sense that, while death is real and unavoidable, our lives are ours to cherish or throw away—a lesson that can be both uplifting and redemptive. As the playwright herself puts it, “The play is not about doctors or even about cancer. It’s about kindness, but it shows arrogance. It’s about compassion, but it shows insensitivity.”
In Wit, Edson delves into timeless questions with no final answers: How should we live our lives knowing that we will die? Is the way we live our lives and interact with others more important than what we achieve materially, professionally, or intellectually? How does language figure into our lives? Can science and art help us conquer death, or our fear of it? What will seem most important to each of us about life as that life comes to an end?
The immediacy of the presentation, and the clarity and elegance of Edson’s writing, make this sophisticated, multilayered play accessible to almost any interested reader.
As the play begins, Vivian Bearing, a renowned professor of English who has
spent years studying and teaching the intricate, difficult Holy Sonnets of the
seventeenth-century poet John Donne, is diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Confident of her ability to stay in control of events, she brings to her illness the same intensely rational and painstakingly methodical approach that has guided her stellar academic career. But as her disease and its excruciatingly painful treatment inexorably progress, she begins to question the single-minded values and standards that have always directed her, finally coming to understand the aspects of life that make it truly worth living.
1998: How I Learned to Drive – Paula Vogel
The story follows the strained, sexual relationship between Li'l Bit and her aunt's husband, Uncle Peck, from her adolescence through her teenage years into college and beyond. Using the metaphor of driving and the issues of pedophilia, incest, and misogyny, the play explores the ideas of control and manipulation.