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Pulitzer Schmulitzer

April 18, 2007

I can't say I'm all that surprised that David Lindsay-Abaire's play Rabbit Hole won the Pulitzer Prize for drama this time around even though the sweet but insubstantial play wasn't even on the list of nominations by the jury.

Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzers, explained the decision at an April 16 press conference. An article in Playbill recapitulated Gissler's thoughts:

"None of the finalists nominated by the jury received a majority vote from the 19-person Board (a finalist must get a majority vote from the Board in order to be named a winner). As a result, the Board decided to consider a work that was not one of the nominated finalists — which it can do as long as three-fourths of the Board votes to do so. The Board voted to consider Rabbit Hole because "Rabbit Hole was mentioned favorably in the jury's report," Gissler said, even though it wasn't nominated. Once the Board decided to consider Rabbit Hole, the play then simply needed to receive a majority vote from the Board to win."

There's a touch of Florida 2000 in all of this. Either the voting system or the jury needs an overhaul. For even if Lindsay-Abaire's play had been nominated for the prize, I would have considered the decision to be a joke especially when compared to the three other far more worthy works that actually were nominated by the jury -- Orpheus X by Rinde Eckert; Bulrusher by Eisa Davis; and Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue by Quiara Alegria Hudes. The fact that Rabbit Hole didn't even make the jury's final cut only underscores the grand mockfest that awards systems tend to be. Throwing up arms and snorting in disgust aren't reactions reserved exclusively for Oscar audiences.

I hope the system changes soon. If not, it won't be long before the Drama Pulitzer looks rather silly. Last year, the jury refused to hand out the award at all. This year, the Board circumvents the jury. I dread to think what will happen next year.

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