Okay…so I was wrong.
Let’s go back to Monday. I’m on a plane from Chicago to New York City. The flight leaves at 1:57pm Central, which is 2:57pm Eastern, which is three minutes before they announce the Pulitzer. I know that I’m eligible. I know that I’ve been nominated. I know that I’m not going to win. I doubt that I’m going to be a finalist, but the possibility is on the table. I believe in my play. I believe I deserve to be a contender. I’m convinced that the winner is going to be either Horton Foote or Tarell Alvin McCraney. I think that if Tarell wins and I’m a finalist, it’s a big year for up and comers. The awesome Annie Baker is in the mix too. I feel like there could be some excitement here, even if I’m not anywhere on the list.
And I’m glad that the flight is scheduled for when it’s scheduled, because I really don’t want to know who won before I take off. Either way, being stuck in the air for the following ninety minutes would be tough. I turn off my phone. Once we’re in the air, I start working on an entirely different and unrelated play. I need my brain to be occupied with something else entirely. And it works.
The plane lands. I’m not thinking about the Pulitzer. I take out my phone. I turn it on. I put it back in my pocket (that’s a habit of mine – whenever I land, the phone immediately comes out and goes on, but gets put away again before I check messages). It’s on vibrate. It vibrates. I remember that the announcement was made about an hour and a half earlier. The phone vibrates again. And again. And again. The phone vibrates fifteen times: fourteen times for new texts, once for new voice mails (of which, I’ll later discover, I have eight). I know what it’s all about. I just don’t know to what extent.
The first two or three messages say “congratulations.” The third one, luckily, says “congratulations on being a finalist for the Pulitzer.” My heart pounds. I resist the urge to grab the nearest passenger and yell “I’m a Pulitzer finalist!” I listen to voicemails. I get two messages in before Carole Rothman calls me, filling me in on all the specifics. My agent calls from London – he’s still on his plane there, but just got the news. My brain is melting. My girlfriend calls, and we’re both speechless, and she asks what I want to do, and all I can think is “what the hell do you do at a time like this?”
I get off the plane. I call my mom. She’s getting her hair cut. She can hear in my voice that something is going on. She asks what’s wrong. I tell her. She goes somewhat speechless. If you know my mom, you understand the magnitude of that statement. I call my dad. He says something to the effect of “you’re fucking shitting me.” He says it five or six times. I can hear him smiling. I call Rajiv Joseph. I don’t know it at the time, but he’s already called me (I haven’t checked all my messages at this point). He’s in Los Angeles, or we’d be celebrating over beers in Brooklyn later that night. Instead, we congratulate each other and share the exact same sentiment – somehow, it’s that much sweeter to be nominated alongside your boy. (At this point, I didn’t know that there was a third finalist – the amazing Sarah Ruhl. When I found out later, I get that same huge smile on my face – what remarkable company).
When I finally get to look at my e-mail a few hours later (on my girlfriend’s iphone at our favorite NYC bar), I’ve got eighty-nine new messages, and more than a hundred Facebook notifications. Most say “congratulations.” Many say “HOLY FUCK” or “HOLY SHIT” or “HOLY FUCKING SHIT!” And my god – it’s just beautiful.
And now it’s Tuesday afternoon, and I’m on a plane from Chicago to New York, and for the first time since, well, about this time yesterday, it’s quiet, and I’m alone, and it’s all sinking in. I can’t say what this honor means for the play (which is currently running at Mixed Blood in Minneapolis, and is deep in rehearsals at Second Stage in New York) in terms of ticket sales or future plans (seriously – I don’t know, so don’t ask). I don’t know what, if anything, this means for Welcome to Arroyo’s, which opens in less than a week at American Theater Company in Chicago (and which was written seven years before Chad Deity, but now becomes the de facto follow-up to a Pulitzer finalist – so no pressure there). I definitely don’t know what this means in terms of the rest of my career (I mean, first professional production ends up like this – what the hell am I supposed to do next?). And really, none of that matters.
Because four years ago, I started writing this silly little play about professional wrestling.
And look where it lives now.