In the new play Sweat, Nottage grapples with the contemporary issues of a challenging economy and the redefinition of the American dream.
For over 20 years now, master playwright Lynn Nottage has created work that has boldly inserted black women into the American theater conversation. Her numerous honors include a MacArthur “genius” grant and the Pulitzer Prize for Ruined, her play centered on Congolese women surviving their nation’s civil war that earned then-newbie Condola Rashad a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play in 2009. Viola Davis won the Drama Desk for Outstanding Actress in a Play for Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, about a seamstress in 1905 who sews intimate apparel for a wide range of clients.
Nottage is back with Sweat, a critically acclaimed work that premiered last summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is now running at the Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The Root caught up with the Brooklyn, N.Y., native to discuss why she turned her attention to Reading, Pa., the once booming factory town where Sweat is set, to grapple with the contemporary issues of a challenging economy, the erosion of the middle class and the redefinition of the American dream, as well as the role that racial attitudes play during hard economic times.