NEW YORK CITY: The Pulitzer committee announced the winners of the annual Pulitzer Prizes at Columbia University today. Lynn Nottage’s Sweat won the top honor in the drama category with a $15,000 cash prize. The finalists for the drama prize were Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music and Sarah DeLappe‘s The Wolves.
Sweat follows a group of friends who work at a factory in Reading, Pa., amid the decline of the Industrial Revolution in America. The play, which was co-commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arena Stage, has been produced at OSF, Arena Stage, and the Public Theater. It is currently running on Broadway at Studio 54 through September. Sweat also received the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Nottage previously won a Pulitzer for her play Ruined in 2009. She is the first woman to win two Pulitzer Prizes for drama and the first woman of color to win two prizes in any category.
“So often, at least in my 50-some-odd years of being on this Earth, the world has been reflected through the gaze of a white man, and I think it’s really important to have different points of view,” Nottage told American Theatre by phone after the announcement. “I’m glad that I can represent that and I’m glad that I can represent it on a big stage, and hopefully I’m making space for others. I’m sticking my foot in the doorway to let others get through.”
When Nottage spoke with American Theatre earlier this year, she mentioned that she wasn’t surprised Sweat marked her Broadway debut, as it’s her play “that’s the most multicultural and has the least number of African-American actors in it.” But she thinks the conversation around the Pulitzer is different.
“I won with Ruined, which was a play that had very strong central characters that were women from the African diaspora so I think it’s a different conversation,” she said. “I think one of the reasons Sweat made the journey is it’s multicultural and it’s reflective of where we are today in America. I think that so often a lot of plays don’t take in the totality of who we are as a nation and that’s just a conversation that I’m very interested in—in how we can we work out our struggles.”
The jury for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama included critic Elysa Gardner, playwright Annie Baker, critic Jesse Green, professor Jonathan Kalb, and critic Wendy Rosenfield.
Theatre critic Hilton Als of The New Yorker received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, making him the first theatre critic to win the prize since Walter Kerr in 1978.
The Pulitzer Prize was established in 1917 by Joseph Pulitzer and recognizes achievements in journalism, literature, drama, and music composition. The award is administered by Columbia University.