Philly native wins Pulitzer, but her plays are a stranger to local stages

Philadelphia stories play central roles in two Pulitzer Prize winners.

The Inquirer won for its series on school violence in the city, and playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes won for her play, “Water by the Spoonful.”

Hudes is a native daughter, raised in West Philadelphia and graduated from Central High School before moving on to New York City.

“So, you know, I’m a Philly girl,” said Hudes from her NYC home.

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“Water by the Spoonful” is the second part of a trilogy set in Philadelphia. It follows the fortunes of a veteran named Elliot, who was the basis of the first part, “Elliot: a Soldier’s Fugue.”

The third and final installment, “The Happiest Song Plays Last” is based on a true story of a folk musician who died in a hospital waiting room.

The city looms large in Hudes’ work because she says the stories are so rich.

“As a kid, growing up, I was always shuttling between the different neighborhoods,” said Hudes. “I would go to my grandmother’s house after school, in North Philly, on American Street near Lehigh. My aunt has lived and worked in the Italian Market for decades. She won Best of Philly coffee advice from the City Paper in, like, 1983 or something. I was from West Philly that had is own kind of beautiful diversity.”

Even though she had been short-listed for Pulitzer’s in the past and wrote the libretto for the hit musical In the Heights, Hudes says the win hit her like a piano falling from the sky. Her plays, however, are not produced in Philadelphia. Only one of her works, “Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue,” hit the stage in her hometown, in the black box of the Walnut Street Theater, in 2010.

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