Why is Clybourne Park on Broadway and not Water by the Spoonful?

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by Melissa Silverstein
June 12, 2012 12:30 PM
5 Comments
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This article in the LA Times: Quiara Alegría Hudes, post-Pulitzer, eyes the next chapter got me going about prizes and the treatment of women. 

I am trying to understand the divergent paths of two playwrights one man and one woman -- both Pulitzer Prize winning authors.

Here are the facts.  Quiara Alegría Hudes, won the Pulitzer Prize this year for her play Water by the Spoonful which was originally produced at the Hartford Stage.  Bruce Norris won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for his play Clybourne Park which was originally produced in 2010 off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.  His play reopened on Broadway this year and Sunday night won the Tony Award for best play. 

Quiara Alegria Hudes' play, is scheduled to premiere in NY off Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre.  With all due respect to Second Stage (a place where I had my very first internship in the theatre) the work produced in their theatre does not qualify for the Tonys.  Unless the play is a huge success and then transfers to Broadway, Quiara's show will not be eligible for a Tony. 

So the question is, why is Water by The Spoonful not coming directly to Broadway?  I just took a look at the list of the winners of the Pulitzer for drama and the reality is the men get shows on Broadway and the women (the few that have won) don't get there as often or as quickly.  2009 -  Ruined by Lynn Nottage - off Broadway; 2002 - Topdog/Underdog - Suzanne Lori Parks - Broadway; 1999 - Wit - Margaret Edson- just made it to Broadway this year in a revival but the original show did not transfer; 1998 - How I Learned to Drive - Paula Vogel - Off -Broadway.  The list of male Pulitzer winners goes on and on and the list of women winners is depressingly short.

It's not like one deals with a light topics and one deals with a hard topic.  Both tackle difficult subject matters --  Clybourne Park is about race and Water by the Spoonful is about an Iraq war veteran. 

In a gender and racially balanced world (Ms. Hudes is part jewish and part Puerto Rican) one would look at Ms. Hudes' body of work and say that this is a woman whose work should be on the biggest stage -- Broadway.   She was the runner up for the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for her play Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue which was the first play in the trilogy of which Water by the Spoonful is the middle chapter.  And she was also the Pulitzer Prize runner up in 2009 with Lin-Manuel Miranda for the Tony Award winning musical In the Heights.

And if a man was writing a triology about the Iraq war, of which two pieces were recognized by the Pulitzer committee, he would be lauded and crowned king of the world. 

Last thing to note -  Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz which was a finalist for the Pulitzer this year -- which Quiara won -- is already a hit on Broadway. 

I'm just floored that a woman whose work has been recognized at the highest level is not getting a Broadway production.  Can someone explain this to me?

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5 Comments

  • Cynthia Samuels | June 20, 2012 9:57 AMReply

    Hey Mel - Don't forget The Heidi Chronicles.

    But I want to talk about Clybourne Park. I feel like a skunk at a garden party but my husband and I both thought it was stereotypey, predictable and generally not so good. I'm curious what others would say about this.

    I am so thrilled to see the growth and success of your work. I know what it's taken and you -- and your product here -- deserve all of the good things that have happened.

  • ECP | June 18, 2012 12:02 PMReply

    Puh-lease. A year ago or more similar questions were posed, in print and online, about why "Clybourne Park" wasn't on Broadway. That's show business, with an emphasis on business and the Almighty Dollar. I'm getting weary of indignation (justified or not) that positions a Broadway run and Tony Award consideration as an ultimate goal for a playwright.

  • Nathalie Molina | June 14, 2012 12:38 PMReply

    Melissa, I had the pleasure of doing a workshop with her only weeks before she got the Pulitzer and I think Quiara is amazing. There's a show about Anne Richards coming to Broadway in the Fall, I hope it's the start of more strong women on Broadway but there isn't much question in my mind that there is some odd dynamics at play, I was especially disappointed that Katori Hall got no Tony nod.

  • Lauren | June 14, 2012 12:27 PMReply

    It is not the playwright's decision to go to Broadway, plain and simple. They might want it to go to Broadway, they might know people who can put those things in motion, but mounting a production on Broadway--ANY production, be it play or musical--costs a lot of money. People need to commit money to the production, etc etc. I don't think it is a matter of being underrepresented. I think it is a matter of money.

    Other Desert Cities was off-Broadway first (yes, it was at Lincoln Center, but technically that theater is an off-Broadway house.) It's a process.

    Not to mention that Clybourne Park is directed by a woman! Hurrah for that!

  • David | June 12, 2012 8:48 PMReply

    I find your argument ridiculous. Clybourne Park came to broadway only after it won the Pulitzer and the Olivier. The fact is that most new plays start off broadway plain and simple. This argument that women are underrepresented is inaccurate. This season we had a new play by a woman of color, Stick Fly, Theresa Rebeck's Seminar, a Porgy and Bess with female adapters. You have no idea if second stage already had the rights before the Pulitzer was awarded.

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