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Theater professor first staged Pulitizer Prize-winning play for second year in a row

Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — For the second year in a row, the Pulitzer Prize for drama has been awarded to a new American play first staged by University of Illinois theater professor Daniel Sullivan.

The prize for drama went to David Auburn’s "Proof," which Sullivan directed at the Manhattan Theater Club in New York City in May 2000. Sullivan’s production then moved to the Walter Kerr Theater on Broadway, where it remains in production. The play deals with the world of higher mathematics and the sometimes fragile humanity of the mathematicians who create its most esoteric proofs.

The 85th annual Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Letters, Drama and Music were awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board and announced April 16 by Columbia University President George Rupp.

In 2000, Sullivan directed the premiere of Donald Margulies’s "Dinner With Friends," which won that year’s Pulitzer for drama. It was produced at the Variety Arts Theater in Manhattan, and also is still running. For his work on that production, Sullivan received the Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing from the New York Drama League and was named Outstanding Director of a Play by the Outer Drama Critics Award Committee. Other recent New York productions directed by Sullivan include "Ten Unknowns" and "Spinning Into Butter" at Lincoln Center.

"Professor Sullivan enjoys a national reputation for working with dramatists on developing new plays," said Robert Graves, acting head of the UI’s theater department. "He is both a nurturer and a mentor to some of the best young playwrights in the country."

From 1981 to 1997, Sullivan served as artistic director of the Seattle Repertory Theater, where he developed and directed new works by such major writers as Arthur Miller, Jon Robin Baitz, Herb Gardner, A.R. Gurney and Wendy Wasserstein, in addition to many young playwrights. Due to these efforts, Seattle Rep received the Regional Theater Tony Award in 1990.

In 1998, Sullivan was named Swanlund Professor of Theater at the UI, where he teaches classes in acting, directing and playwriting. Last fall, he brought
actress-playwright Charlayne Woodward to campus, where she and Sullivan worked with students on writing their own plays.

"Dan is a great teacher as well as an outstanding director," Graves said. "He listens to the students and has an uncanny ability to bring out the best in them."

This summer, Sullivan will direct a July 17 performance of Gurney’s "Love Letters" for the theater department’s "SummerFest 2001" at the UI’s Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The performance will benefit the internship program affiliated with the summer festival.