Arts Desk

Woolly Mammoth Clybourne Park Wins 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Jefferson A. Russell, Dawn Ursula, Kimberly Gilbert and Cody Nickell in Bruce Norris's Pulitzer-endorsed "Clybourne Park."

Who's got two thumbs and can spot a Pulitzer winner a year out?

Aight, I may be exaggerating my prognosticatin' prowess, if not the number and quality of my thumbs. But I was most enthusiastic at this time last year about Woolly's production of Clybourne Park, the sharply observed race-and-gentrification play that today snagged playwright and actor Bruce Norris his first Pulitzer Prize. The production, which Woolly had already announced it will reprise this summer with the original cast, was the second-ever. It would have been the world premiere, says Woolly Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz (who also directed the play), but then a slot opened up at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. That production overlapped with Woolly's, which opened late in March 2010, by about a week.

"We don't have premiere-itis," Shalwitz told me back in February. "We do so many new plays, that whether it's the first or the second or the third, it doesn't much matter to us."

This summer's remount might be something closer to the thirteenth. In London, a Royal Court production that opened in August has transferred in February to the West End, where it's still running.

The majority of Norris's plays have premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, where Norris lived for 19 years (and where Clybourne Park is set, albeit in a fictitious neighborhood) before decamping to Brooklyn. Woolly previously staged Norris's The Unmentionables in 2007. That show, about white missionaries and industrialists in Africa, shared with Clybourne a keen blade for dissecting white liberal guilt as well as a willingness to make its characters of color as flawed and as vulnerable to their own prejudices as its white folk.

If Norris has a calling card, it's that sense of everyone's fallibility. During Clybourne's initial run last February, Norris told New York magazine's Boris Katcha that audiences “want to align themselves with someone in a play, and one of the most fun things to do is deny them that option.”

Clybourne Park returns to Woolly July 21—Aug. 14.

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