Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pulitzer for Drama goes to Ruined

Congratulations to Lynn Nottage, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Ruined, about the plight of women in the African nation of Congo who have been scarred by civil war. You can see it off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club through May 17.

The citation calls Ruined "a 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."

You can read more about Nottage and Ruined in a Los Angeles Times profile, in the New York Times review and in a review from Broadway & Me.

In this piece from the New York Post, Nottage writes about the play's origins, including how she and director Kate Whoriskey traveled to Uganda to interview Congolese refugees. (Thanks to Elisabeth Vincentelli, the Post's drama critic, for pointing me to it in her new blog for the paper.)

There's a very interesting quote in the Los Angeles Times story about what Nottage, 44, sees as the failure of her generation of playwrights to engage audiences:

'Our job as artists is to literally keep our eyes open while everybody else's are shut,' " she recalls. "And we've fallen down very badly in the last couple of decades. We're in a really unique position to have a conversation with an audience. But we are not challenging them, not their morality, their religion, their politics, liberal or conservative. We are not shaking them to the core."

Before the award was announced, Nottage said what she'd really like, more than the plaque, was to see Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey in the audience for Ruined. "I would like to see them take up the plight of women in the Congo as their special cause. That would be the prize."

Here's a clip that includes scenes from the play and an interview with the playwright about the issues raised in her work:

And kudos, too, to the Windy City.

I definitely have to get to Chicago someday because among other things, it's a great theatre town, which I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't realize until the last couple of years.

Chris Jones, of the Chicago Tribune, notes that Ruined was commissioned by the Goodman Theatre. That makes 2009 the second year in a row that a play originating in Chicago won the Pulitzer, coming on the heels of Steppenwolf's August: Osage County.

As this year's winner shows, the drama prize doesn't always go to a play with an American theme. Most notably, in 1956, Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich won for The Diary of Anne Frank. The citation notes that the award is given "for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life."

The 2009 finalists were: Becky Shaw, by Gina Gionfriddo, "a jarring comedy that examines family and romantic relationships with a lacerating wit while eschewing easy answers and pat resolutions;" and In The Heights, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, "a robust musical about struggling Latino immigrants in New York City today that celebrates the virtues of sacrifice, family solidarity and gritty optimism."


Bob said...

Come to Chicago! You'll feel smarter for having done so.

Esther said...

I will definitely have to do that sometime. I feel smarter just reading your blog! :-)

jan@broadwayandme said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Esther! I was lucky enough to have seen, and enjoyed, all three finalists and I agree with the Pulitzer Board: "Ruined" is the one that deserves this honor.

Esther said...

You're welcome, Jan! I always enjoy reading your reviews. Of the three, I've only seen In the Heights and as much as I loved the score and the choreography the story itself, while sweet, is kind of pedestrian.