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Pulitzer Prize for drama goes to Michael R. Jackson’s ‘A Strange Loop’

Larry Owens, center, and the cast of "A Strange Loop," which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
(Joan Marcus)

Michael R. Jackson’s “A Strange Loop” won the Pulitzer Prize for drama on Monday. The strategically structured musical centers on a black, queer writer working a day job he hates while creating his own stage show about a black, queer writer working a day job he hates while he creates a stage show.

The piece, which made its world premiere off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons last spring, is essentially a coming-of-age story of a young artist, as the comedic yet punishing voices inside his head are brought to life.

The finalists for the prize — given to a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life — included Will Arbery’s play “Heroes of the Fourth Turning,” another Playwrights Horizons production about young, conservative Catholic intellectuals in Trump’s America.

“Soft Power,” which debuted in 2018 at the Ahmanson Theatre, was also a finalist for the prize. David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s musical imagines a Chinese executive who falls in love with Hillary Clinton as the power balance between their two countries shifts following the 2016 election.

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“It goes without saying that today we announce the Pulitzer winners during deeply trying times,” Pulitzer Prize administrator Dana Canedy said during the announcement. “Ironically, the very first time the prizes were presented was June 1917 — less than a year before the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish flu pandemic.

“Throughout America’s greatest challenges — two world wars, the Depression, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, as well as 9/11, the Pulitzer Prizes have continued to celebrate excellence in journalism and arts and letters, because in difficult times, the Pulitzers may be more important than ever.”

Anthony Davis shares the accidentally amusing way he learned that “The Central Park Five,” which premiered at Long Beach Opera, had won the Pulitzer.

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