Pulitzer Prize Drama Surprise: 'Water by the Spoonful'

Joan Marcus
Stockard Channing and Rachel Griffiths in "Other Desert Cities"

The drama by Quiara Alegria Hudes about a returning Iraq War vet was a surprise win, beating out Jon Robin Baitz's "Other Desert Cities" and Stephen Karam's "Sons of the Prophet."

NEW YORK -- In an upset that went against industry predictions, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama has been awarded to playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes for her drama about a returning Iraq War veteran working in a Philadelphia sandwich shop, Water by the Spoonful.

Finalists are announced at the same time as prize winners in the various Pulitzer categories, but the theater award this year had been widely expected to go to current Broadway hit Other Desert Cities, by Jon Robin Baitz. That comedy-drama about political and personal divisions among the California family of an old-guard Republican couple made the shortlist, along with Stephen Karam's tragicomedy about a Lebanese-American family, Sons of the Prophet, which was a hit Off Broadway last year.

The Pulitzers have often favored outsider choices over mainstream successes. Produced at Hartford Stage in Connecticut last fall but not yet seen in New York, Hudes' play picks up the title character from her earlier work Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue, which was a Pulitzer finalist in 2007. She also made the nominations shortlist in 2009 for the musical In the Heights, co-written with Lin-Manuel Miranda

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This marks Hudes' first win of the prestigious award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize and was open to any American play produced in calendar 2011.

Last year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park, opens on Broadway on Thursday. That play premiered in 2010 at Playwrights Horizons Off Broadway, and has since been produced in London and Los Angeles.

This year's Pulitzer nominating jury was chaired by LA Weekly critic-at-large Steven Leigh Morris and also included playwright Norris, critics Linda Winer and Rohan Preston, and theater professor David Savran.