Current Broadway play “Sweat” has scored playwright Lynn Nottage her second Pulitzer Prize for Drama, with the award this year going to a show that has proven a timely look at a group of working-class friends in a declining factory town.
Nottage, who conducted interviews and research into the declining community of Reading, Penn., as inspiration for the play, previously picked up the 2009 drama Pulitzer for “Ruined,” her drama set in the Congo. Also among the list of Pulitzer winners was New Yorker theater critic Hilton Als, winning the award for criticism, as well as Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” bagging the fiction prize.
The two finalists for the drama prize were “The Wolves,” Sarah DeLappe’s bracing story of a girl’s soccer team, and “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” Taylor Mac’s ambitious, 24-hour cycle of American musical throughout the nation’s lifespan. But “Sweat” scored the top prize for a play that, following its 2015 debut at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and an early 2016 run in Washington, D.C., arrived in New York just as last year’s contentious presidential election added new urgency to the play’s depiction of economic decline, racism and the overlooked working class.
The win for “Sweat” looks poised to draw additional attention — and additional business — to the Broadway production of the title, which has posted modest weekly grosses since it began performances March 4. Given her “Ruined” win, Nottage has some insight into how a Pulitzer win can affect the response to a play.
“It created a larger audience for ‘Ruined,’” she noted after the awards announcement. “People leaned in to some of the issues in a way that they hadn’t prior. The Pulitzer is such a conversation starter, and this time around I feel really equipped to talk about the issues in the play.”
In addition to awards for letters, drama and music, the Putlizer board handed out journalism prizes to news organizations including the New York Times (which won three), the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, among others.