Professor Lynn Nottage's Sweat enjoys extended run at The Public

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Pulitzer Prize-winner and School of the Arts Associate Professor Lynn Nottage opened her new latest play, Sweat, at The Public Theater on Oct. 18. Nottage’s “extraordinarily moving drama” (The New York Times) tells the story of a group of friends who have grown up together in an industrial American town working together on the factory floor. The New York premiere has been extended through December 4, with the majority of the performances already sold out.
Sweat was greeted by the rave review from the New York Times when it premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in August. The festival commissioned the work as part of its series American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, a ten-year program dedicated to supporting new plays that explore turning points in U.S. history.
“From first moments to last, this compassionate but cleareyed play throbs with heartfelt life, with characters as complicated as any you’ll encounter at the theater today,” wrote Times critic Charles Isherwood. “That the people onstage are middle-class or lower-middle-class folks — too rarely given ample time on American stages — makes the play all the more vital a contribution to contemporary drama.”
Sweat explores the costs of the changing industrial landscape as jobs are outsourced to other countries, picket lines are crossed, and economic choices destroy a way of life. The play is inspired and informed by interviews with the citizens of Reading, Pa. that Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey conducted over two years of visiting the city, which was named the poorest American city in 2011.
“I spoke with a group of frustrated and bitter steel workers who had been locked out of Hofmann Industries for 93 weeks,” recalled Nottage in an article for The New York Times about the play’s development. “I was inspired by their fortitude, yet bristled at the insidious way deindustrialization was radically reshaping the narrative of these middle-class workers in America. Their struggle became the seed for my play.”

Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a screenwriter.  Her plays include By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lily Award, Drama Desk Nomination), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award), Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play), and Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award).

Nottage is the recipient of numerous awards, including a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, Steinberg "Mimi" Distinguished Playwright Award, the Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, a Guggenheim Grant, PEN/Laura Pels Award, Lucille Lortel Fellowship and Visiting Research Fellowship at Princeton University.

Nottage will discuss Sweat with Playwriting Concentration Head David Henry Hwang as part of the School of the Arts’ Complex Issues event series on Nov. 3 at 1 pm in 501 Dodge Hall. Complex Issues is a monthly series of public conversations around works by Columbia faculty that raise questions of racial, ethnic, gender, economic, sexual, religious and cultural complexity, and how they are articulated across discipline and genre today.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.