Hilton Als

Hilton Als Wins Pulitzer Prize for Criticism

Hilton Als, an artist, curator, theater critic, and staff writer at The New Yorker, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism on Monday, April 10, for his “bold original reviews that strove to put stage dramas within a real-world cultural context, particularly the shifting landscape of gender, sexuality, and race.”

In “Worked: Real and Surreal Black Life Onstage,” one of the ten pieces by Als that was submitted to the prize committee, he writes: “Aside from the gay male postwar writers I revered as a teenager (Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, mid-to-late William Inge), the playwrights I learned the most from were women of color. I never entirely forsook the theatre I saw as a kid—agitprop grows out of agitation, and that’s interesting, too—but what I discovered, as I read and saw works by Alice Childress, Adrienne Kennedy, and Ntozake Shange, then Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage, and, most recently, Dominique Morisseau, was that there was, and is, a broader perspective out there, one in which ‘the man’ wasn’t the entire issue: being was. Those women playwrights of color made the recognizable unrecognizable—which is to say, they made it art.”

Als began contributing to The New Yorker in 1989, writing pieces for its famous Talk of the Town. He became a staff writer for the publication in 1994 and a theater critic in 2002. Prior to joining its ranks, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice, an editor at large at Vibe, and a contributing writer for Artforum, from 1989 to 2005. He also edited the catalogue for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s seminal exhibition “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art” (1994–95); cocurated “Self-Consciousness” (2010) at the VeneKlasen/Werner gallery, in Berlin; and collaborated with artist Celia Paul to create “Desdemona for Celia by Hilton” (2015), an exhibition for the Metropolitan Opera’s Gallery Met.

His awards and achievements include the New York Association of Black Journalists’ first prize in Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment in 1997; a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Nonfiction in 2000; and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism in 2002–2003.

Als is currently an associate professor of writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. His most recent book, White Girls, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2014, and in 2016 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. “With his deep knowledge of the history of performance—not only in theatre but in dance, music, and visual art—he not only shows us how to view a production but how to place its director, its author, and its performers in the ongoing continuum of dramatic art,” The New Yorker said in a statement. “His reviews are not simply reviews; they are provocative contributions to the discourse on theatre, race, class, sexuality, and identity in America.”