Pulitzer considers awarding unstaged shows

Eva Philips, Contributing writer

COVID-19 has brought changes to all parts of daily life, and one of its most obvious impacts has been on the arts.

Now that large gatherings are a source of potential danger, it has become impossible for performances like concerts, plays, and musicals to take place in front of a live audience.

However, thanks to recent policy changes by the Pulitzer Prize Board, dramatic works can get the recognition they rightfully deserve. These changes will allow the Pulitzer Prize Board to give award consideration to plays that were streamed online, performed in an alternative venue, postponed or canceled altogether.

This is a break from normal precedent. Previously, only in-person plays were eligible for the Pulitzer Prize in drama.

Since in-person productions were largely put on hold due to pandemic restrictions, this alteration makes sense. It will allow dramatic works and their creators to receive the recognition they deserve, despite the unusual circumstances.

The rule changes apply to works performed or scheduled for performance in 2020, which will be eligible for the 2021 Pulitzer Awards. Pulitzer Awards are announced in the springtime every year, and as of right now, this tradition will hold.

The Pulitzer Board will give playwrights the power to decide when their plays are considered for the award. However, creators can only submit a work for consideration once.

These changes are not the first example of the interference of COVID-19 with the Pulitzer Awards. This past April, the Pulitzer Board delayed the announcement of the recipients of the 2020 Pulitzer Awards in order to accommodate the journalists who participate in choosing the winners.

As these journalists faced pressures due to the demands of covering the COVID-19 pandemic, covering anything else became less of a priority. Therefore, the announcement of the award winners occurred on May 4 rather than Apr. 20, as previously planned.

The 2020 Pulitzer Award in Drama went to Michael R. Jackson’s musical “A Strange Loop”, beating out finalists “Heroes of the Fourth Turning” by Will Arbery and “Soft Power” by David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori.

This year, notable productions that will be eligible for consideration thanks to the rule change include Richard Nelson’s livestreamed trilogy of plays, Tracy Letts’ “The Minutes”, Noah Haidle’s “Birthday Candles” and the new musical “Flying Over Sunset”, as well as Lucas Hnath’s “Dana H.,” which was set to be performed off-Broadway prior to its cancellation.

Many have turned to the arts as a source of comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic and the stresses of modern life. Whether that comfort comes from television, literature, film, or drama, it is undeniably a vital part of human culture. The alteration of the Pulitzer eligibility rules allows dramatic works to receive the appreciation they deserve and ultimately reflects the importance of art in the most difficult times.