Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris’ dark comedy loosely inspired by A Raisin in the Sun, was named winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play took home the coveted award over finalists A Free Man of Color by John Guare and Detroit by Lisa D’Amour. The announcement was made on April 18 at Columbia University, which administers the awards.
"I am deeply honored and totally flabbergasted to receive this recognition," Norris said in a statement. "I want to thank both Playwrights Horizons and Woolly Mammoth Theatre in D.C. for simultaneously taking a chance on this play, and to thank Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago for their 10 years of support."
The Pulitzer board described Clybourne Park as “a powerful work whose memorable characters speak in witty and perceptive ways to America's sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness.” The Pulitzer honors "a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life." Norris will be awarded $10,000 and a Pulitzer Prize medal for his play.
Set in a suburban Chicago living room in 1959 (Act One) and 2009 (Act Two), the play tells the story of two periods of transition in the house. In the first act, a Caucasian couple is packing to move out, having sold the home to the first African-American family to move into the neighborhood—much to the consternation of a rep from the local Rotary Club. In the second act, the house has been sold by a black family to a white couple who plan to tear it down and build a bigger home on the same lot—much to the consternation of a rep from the now-integrated neighborhood association. The cast plays different roles in each of the play's two acts.
Clybourne Park premiered at Playwrights Horizons on February 21, 2010, in a production directed by Pam MacKinnon and starring Crystal A. Dickinson, Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, Christina Kirk, Annie Parisse, Jeremy Shamos and Frank Wood. The play had an acclaimed mounting at London’s Royal Court Theatre in September 2010, which transferred to the West End, where it is still running. The London production won the Evening Standard Award for Best Play and the Olivier Award for Best New Play.
Norris is an actor-turned-playwright whose works include The Infidel (2000), Purple Heart (2002), We All Went Down to Amsterdam (2003), The Pain and the Itch (2004), and The Unmentionables (2006) all of which had their premieres at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. His newest play, A Parallelogram, premiered there in July 2010, and Clybourne Park will be produced at Steppenwolf in the 2011-2012 season.
Finalist Detroit, described by the Pulitzer jury as "a contemporary tragicomic play that depicts a slice of desperate life in a declining inner-ring suburb where hope is in foreclosure," was produced at Steppenwolf in 2010 and is on tap for a Broadway mounting in fall 2011. A Free Man of Color, described by the board as "an audacious play spread across a large historical canvas, dealing with serious subjects while retaining a playful intellectual buoyancy," was produced by Lincoln Center Theater in fall 2010 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
The Pulitzer Prize jury included Washington Post drama critic Peter Marks (chair), Chicago Tribune drama critic Chris Jones, CUNY theater professor David Savran, former winner Lynn Nottage (Ruined) and LA Weekly critic Steven Leigh Morris.