David Savran: The Pulitzer Prize and American Theatre
The Pulitzer Prize and American Theatre
Date: December 21, 2016 - Wednesday
Venue: French Hall, Conference Center, Hongkou Campus
The Pulitzer Prize in Drama, which was first awarded in 1918, remains the most respected prize in theatre in the United States. Indeed, most of the Pulitzer plays have entered the canon of U.S. drama and still circulate widely. This has been especially true since World War II, when virtually every major playwright has won at least one award, including Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, and Suzan-Lori Parks. The canonizing power of the Pulitzer Prize is especially marked outside the U.S., where the winning plays form a kind of instant canon of work which is performed and studied. Outside the U.S., it is rarely noted that the Pulitzer plays tend in fact to be more conservative both aesthetically and politically than many other U.S. plays and deeply tied to the U.S. cultural elite which bestows the award. In this seminar, we will survey the field of Pulitzer Prize-winning plays since World War II and consider how and why they were selected. We will also analyze the narratives and myths this canon of plays consolidates about society, politics, and art in the U.S.
David Savran is a specialist in twentieth and twenty-first century U.S. theatre, transnational musical theatre, popular culture, and social theory. He is a fellow at the International Research Center “Interweaving Performance Cultures” at the Freie Universität Berlin. He is the author of eight books, whose wide-ranging subjects include the Wooster Group, Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, white masculinity, music theatre, and middlebrow cultural production. His most recent book is Highbrow/Lowdown: Theater, Jazz, and the Making of the New Middle Class, the winner of the Joe A. Callaway Prize. He has, in addition, published two collections of interviews with playwrights and has served as a judge for the Obie Awards and the Lucille Lortel Awards and was a juror for the 2011 and 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. He is the former editor of the Journal of American Drama and Theatre and is the Vera Mowry Roberts Distinguished Professor of Theatre at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.