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‘Ruined’ wins Pulitzer for drama

Lynn Nottage's play wins major honor

Lynn Nottage’s play “Ruined” has picked up the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Show, set in the present-day turmoil of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was commissioned by Chicago’s Goodman Theater, where it preemed in the fall. Play is in the midst of an extended run at Off Broadway’s Manhattan Theater Club.

Pulitzer, which comes with a $10,000 cash prize, reps another major kudo for Nottage (“Intimate Apparel,” “Crumbs From the Table of Joy”), who won the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, aka the “genius” grant, in 2007.

“Ruined” vied for the drama Pulitzer with two other finalists, Gina Gionfriddo’s “Becky Shaw” and Tony-winning tuner “In the Heights.”

“Ruined,” loosely inspired by Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children,” follows an independent businesswoman, Mama Nadi, and the women she employs in a canteen surrounded by the ongoing civil war in the Congo. Show also grew out of a trip to Uganda taken by the scribe.

“A lot of folks thought, Who’s going to come see a play about rape in the Congo?” Nottage said after the Pulitzer was announced. “It’s been a challenge to get the voices of women of the African diaspora heard onstage. I hope this award will encourage other theaters to take a chance on plays like mine.”

Kate Whoriskey helmed the premiere production, seen both in Chi and Gotham and starring Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Cherise Boothe, Russell Gebert Jones and Condola Rashad, among others.

Each year the drama Pulitzer’s three finalists are selected by a nominating jury, with the award winner chosen by the Pulitzer board. Jury for this year’s drama prize included Dominic Papatola, a legit critic at St. Paul Pioneer Press; John M. Clum, chair of the theater studies department at Duke U.; James Hebert, a critic at the San Diego Union-Tribune; playwright David Henry Hwang; and Linda Winer, theater critic at Newsday.

Nottage is at work on another play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” about a maid who wants a part in a “Gone With the Wind”-style pic.

The win for “Ruined” marks the fourth time this decade that the Pulitzer for drama has gone to a work produced in New York by Manhattan Theater Club, following David Auburn’s “Proof” in 2001, John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” in 2005, and David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole” in 2007.

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