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Winner of 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Drama announced

Sanaz Toossi’s “English” earns the Prize and two finalists gain recognition.

(L-R )Tala Ashe as Elham, Hadi Tabbal as Omid, Ava Lalezarzadeh as Goli, Marjan Neshat as Marjan and Pooya Mohseni as Roya in “English” Off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company, 2022 (Credit: Ahron R. Foster)

The 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Drama has been awarded to the new play “English” by Sanaz Toossi.

“English” had its world premiere Off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company. It played a limited run beginning in February of 2022. The play centers around four Iranian adults preparing for the TOEFL — the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which may determine their eligibility for work, the possibility of leaving Tehran and more. Learning a new language may alter their identities but can also be the chance at a new life.

The two finalists for the Pulitzer are “On Sugarland” by Aleshea Harris and “The Far Country” by Lloyd Suh.

“On Sugarland” premiered at New York Theatre Workshop in February of 2022. Like “English,” “The Far Country” debuted Off-Broadway at Atlantic in November of 2022.

The Pulitzer Prize for Drama is awarded to “for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.” To be eligible, a work must be full-length and playwrights must be U.S. citizens. Plays that opened in the United States between Jan.1, 2022, and Dec. 31, 2023, were eligible for entry.

The year-long judging process began with the appointment of jurors, who then make three recommendations in each category. For drama, the jury is typically composed of three critics, one academic and one playwright, all of whom attend productions in New York and at regional theaters.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Pulitzer winner and finalists chosen did not include any works from Broadway. However, the 2022 Pulitzer winner, “Fat Ham” by James Ijames, opened on Broadway on April 12, 2023. The comedy was nominated for a 2023 Tony Award for Best Play. That category also includes two other previous Pulitzer winners: “Between Riverside and Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis, which won the Prize in 2015, and “Cost of Living” by Martyna Majok, the 2018 winner.

Several other Pulitzer winners in recent years, including “A Strange Loop” by Michael R. Jackson, have also gone on to open on the Main Stem following their respective wins.