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Second to Nun: Doubt Wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama

John Patrick Shanley(Photo © Joseph Marzullo)
John Patrick Shanley
(Photo © Joseph Marzullo)
John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, which opened on Broadway last week, has been awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play, about a priest accused by a nun of improper conduct with a child, originally played Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club. The other finalists for this year's Pulitzer were Will Eno's Thom Pain (based on nothing) and Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House.

Doubt is Shanley's first play to reach Broadway; his other works for the theater include Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Women of Manhattan, The Dreamer Examines His Pillow, Italian American Reconciliation, Four Dogs and a Bone, and Sailor's Song (which premiered at the Public Theater this season). In addition, Shanley won an Academy Award for his Moonstruck screenplay.

"I was a little concerned when we did the transfer that Doubt wouldn't go as well in a Broadway size house," Shanley told TheaterMania in a phone interview today, "but, in fact, it seems to fit the new theater better than the original." Commenting on the comedic aspects of the initial scenes of the play, he said, "Whenever I write a play, I always start from where the audience is and bring them where I want them to go. In this case, the audience starts with the idea that nuns are funny; so you might as well let them laugh, then calm them down and walk them into the serious issues of the play."

Of his Pultizer win, Shanley remarked, "I feel great. The Pulitizer Prize is a celebration of American playwriting, and that's a party I'm happy to attend. Playwrights work hard and have pretty tough lives. When one of us is honored, it's important to enjoy it, so that's what I intend to do!"

In his review of Doubt for TheaterMania, David Finkle wrote, "The chilling beauty of the play originates with the specific example that Shanley employs to moot one of organized religion's most recurring issues: the place that doubt has in the minds and hearts of the faithful. Refusing to supply a pat answer to the ever-present quandary, Shanley is cunning as he pits a self-proclaimed religious woman who brooks no reservations about her beliefs against a clear-cut religious man who does."


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