The Pulitzer Prize board can, when it wants, overrule its own juries.
And yesterday, it ignored the finalists chosen by the Drama jury–headed by L.A. Times theater critic Charles McNulty–in favor of Next to Normal, “a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals,” according to the Pulitzer site.
Mr. McNulty was not pleased at the evident East Coast bias on display by the “mandarins” at Columbia.
In an era in which important new dramatic works rarely get their start in New York, the board’s geographical myopia, a vision of the American theater that starts in Times Square and ends just a short taxi ride away is especially disheartening.
In fairness, it seems pretty tough to pick a drama award (which might be why the board has 15 times declined to give an award at all). The jury’s nominees, from the Pulitzer site, were:
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” by Kristoffer Diaz, a play invoking the exaggerated role-playing of professional wrestling to explore themes from globalization to ethnic stereotyping, as the audience becomes both intimate insider and ringside spectator;
“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” by Rajiv Joseph, a play about the chaotic Iraq war that uses a network of characters, including a caged tiger, to ponder violent, senseless death, blending social commentary with tragicomic mayhem; and
“In the Next Room or the vibrator play,” by Sarah Ruhl, an inventive work that mixes comedy and drama as it examines the medical practice of a 19th century American doctor and confronts questions of female sexuality and emancipation.