Quiara Alegría Hudes became the first Latina to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama for her play “Water by the Spoonful,” which was commissioned, developed and had its world premiere at Hartford Stage in November 2011. The prizes were announced Monday.
Hudes, 34, was a finalist in 2007 for her play "Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue," which is the first play of her trilogy. "Water by the Spoonful" is the second play in that trio — and a stand-alone work which follows the fortunes of Elliot Ruiz as family matters scuttle his grand plans and feed his own issues of guilt, anger and dependency.
Hudes was teaching a class in playwriting at Wesleyan University in Middletown when she received "about 50 voice mail messages," she says. "I thought, 'Oh my god, who died?' I was absolutely not expecting this. So when I started reading the texts and saw all the exclamation points, I understood. I shared the news with the students and we went on with the class.
"I feel very grateful to my family for sharing their stories with me growing up"¿ she says. "I can’'t wait to talk to my cousin Elliot [who inspired the lead character.] I'm so excited now. This is really, really awesome. I'm going to celebrate with my husband and a bottle of champagne."
Former Hartford Stage artistic director Michael Wilson says he was "thrilled and stunned" upon hearing the news of Hudes' win. "This is really a bolt from the blue." Wilson is in Kansas where he is directing a play at the William Inge Festival. "There is no writer more deserving than Quiara. The prize not only honors Quiara's vast imagination and heart in dealing with the American experience, but it also speaks highly of Hartford Stage and Aetna and its commitment to developing new works."
Hudes did research for the play at Hartford's Institute of Living.
Wilson also says the Pulitzer will "catapult" the play to be produced all over the country. So far, it has only been produced in Hartford. Davis McCallum directed and Armando Riesco starred in the play, which Hudes says was inspired by the jazz of John Coltrane.
Michael Stotts, managing director of Hartford Stage, says the Pulitzer will "absolutely empower" the theater's new play development at the theater ¿and will help make the case for developing new works."
New artistic director at Hartford Stage, Darko Tresnjak, says "my heart just lept out of my chest when I heard the news." The honor, he says, reflects on the theater's play development program, which also includes associate artistic director Hana Sharif,"who worked very closely with Quiara." The third play of the trilogy, "The Happiest Song Plays Last," is expected to receive a production atChicago's Goodman Theatreseason.
Hudes was also was a finalist for a Pulitzer and was nominated for a Tony for her book for the 2008 musical, "In the Heights." Hudes is also working on developing a new musical based on the book,"Like Water for Chocolate."
Finalists for the Pulitzer in drama were Jon Robin Baitz' "Other Desert Cities," which is now playing on Broadway and Stephen Karan's "Sons of the Prophet," which had its world premiere at Boston's HuntingtonTheatre Company and which had a run off-Broadway earlier this season.