Some are squawking about the Pulitzer board's selection of Next to Normal, a Broadway musical about a bipolar mother living in the suburbs, for the drama prize—in part because the board passed over the three initial nominees (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph; and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) by Sarah Ruhl) to vote for the musical, which they'd only seen the night before:
Several Pulitzer Prize board members went to see the Broadway musical “Next to Normal” last Thursday, the night before the board made its surprise vote to award this year’s drama Pulitzer to the musical, according to two people with first-hand knowledge of the board’s deliberations.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Mr. Gissler [of Columbia University] described some parts of the board’s process that led to the prize for “Next to Normal” — a process that the chair of the drama jury has criticized as an override by the board “in favor of its own sentiments.”
Next to Normal has also been accused of techno-gimmickry for publishing a serialized version of itself over Twitter. Early adoption of useful technology for artistic democratization or an elaborate marketing campaign masquerading as the former? Depends on who you ask. I say the two aren't mutually exclusive.
The most interesting part of the drama chair's criticism is buried towards the bottom of the story:
With the drama jury’s chairman Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times criticizing the board for passing over the three nominees, Mr. Gissler said that “it is unfair to say that the board simply plucked ‘Next to Normal’ out of nowhere for the prize.” He also disagreed with Mr. McNulty’s accusation that the board suffered from “geographical myopia, a vision of the American theater that starts in Times Square and ends just a short taxi ride away.” Two of the jury’s nominees have not yet had runs in New York.
Not having seen any of these shows, I'm unwilling to weigh in on Mr. McNulty's accusation—but I have my suspicions.
As Jen Graves once said, "it is the duty of the regional critic to fight the provincialism of New York."
And I stupidly forgot to mention that Next to Normal started right here in Issaquah at the Village Theater.
It was announced today that the new musical drama Next to Normal won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This Tony Award-winning new musical got its start in Issaquah, WA in Village Theatre’s new works program Village Originals under the title Feeling Electric. Written by Brian Yorkey—Village Theatre’s former associate artistic director—the show went on to further development and found a home at Broadway’s Booth Theatre in April 2009. It’s been over one year on Broadway, the show has since recouped, and a national tour is on the horizon.
Congratulations to Village Theater for jump-starting a new work that went on to glory.