Ayad Akhtar Wins Drama Pulitzer for “Disgraced”

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American actor and writer Ayad Akhtar has won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play “Disgraced,” it was announced today.

The Pulitzer Prize website cited the drama prize this way:

For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to “Disgraced,” by Ayad Akhtar, a moving play that depicts a successful corporate lawyer painfully forced to consider why he has for so long camouflaged his Pakistani Muslim heritage.

akhtar-author
Ayad Akhtar

Born in Staten Island, New York to Pakistani parents, Akhtar spent most of his childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He majored in theatre at Brown University. After graduating, he moved to Italy and studied acting with Jerzy Grotowski for a year. He then returned to the US to teach acting classes with Andre Gregory and earn his M.A. in directing from Columbia University.

An immediate look at Wikipedia relates:

While at Columbia he and classmates Tom Glynn and Joseph Castelo formed the idea for “The War Within,” a film about an ordinary man radicalized into becoming a terrorist. Akhtar also starred in the film playing Hassan, the would-be terrorist. In 2011 he played Neel Kashkari in the HBO film “Too Big to Fail.”

Disgraced premiered at The American Theater Company in January 2012, then was staged at Lincoln Center in October. The play’s New York cast included actors Aasif Mandvi, Heidi Armbruster, Erik Jensen and Karen Pittman.

Little Brown Publishing issued Akhtar’s first novel, American Dervish, in January 2012.

According to Akhtar’s own website:

American Dervish [was] published in 25 languages worldwide and a 2012 Best Book of the Year at Kirkus Reviews, Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Shelf-Awareness, and O (Oprah) Magazine… “Disgraced” played at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater in 2012, and will be premiering at the Bush Theater in London in May 2013. “Disgraced” won the Jeff Equity Award for Best New Play in 2012. As a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for “The War Within.” He has received commissions from Lincoln Center and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

His website briefly describes “Disgraced”:

Set in modern-day New York City, “Disgraced” tells the story of Amir, a Muslim-American lawyer who is rapidly moving up the corporate ladder while distancing himself from his cultural roots. At the moment of achieving his life-long ambitions, he falls victim to professional and personal betrayals, not least of all, his own betrayal of himself.

The site also briefly quotes The New York Times review of the play:

In dialogue that bristles with wit and intelligence, Mr. Akhtar, a novelist and screenwriter, puts contemporary attitudes toward religion under a microscope, revealing how tenuous self-image can be for people born into one way of being who have embraced another.

Finalists

Also nominated as finalists in the drama category were: “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” by Gina Gionfriddo, a searing comedy that examines the psyches of two women in midlife as they ruefully question the differing choices they have made; and “4000 Miles,” by Amy Herzog, a drama that shows acute understanding of human idiosyncrasy as a spiky 91-year-old locks horns with her rudderless 21-year-old grandson who shows up at her Greenwich Village apartment after a disastrous cross-country bike trip.

  • Stepanie Carroll Stevens

    Yikes — this play had all of one good scene.