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Black History Month: Highlighting Playwright Lynn Nottage

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This week we’re spotlighting playwright Lynn Nottage. Nottage is an inspiring, Black voice in the theatre community whose stories bring personality and individualism to a variety of characters. She is the only woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice for her playwriting, in 2009’s Ruined and 2012’s Sweat. She is also heavily involved in the musical aspect of the presentations, having turned her play Intimate Apparel into an opera, and writing the book for the musical centered on Michael Jackson titled MJ the Musical. Nottage’s plays have been produced worldwide and copiously throughout the United States. 

Her first full-length play was titled The Darker Side of Verona and depicted the travels of an African American Shakespeare company throughout the South. Her work constantly renews and articulates the perspectives of people of color and lower-class citizens. She champions social justice issues not just through her writing, but outside of the theatre as well. Nottage recently “co-signed a document called “We See You, White American Theater” (WSYWAT) demanding institutional change. And since Broadway reopened, many of the plays produced have been by Black playwrights.” This alliance furthers the agenda of the call for more diverse presence and perspectives in theatre. The organization is made up of artists of color that not only aims to put an end to pervasive racism and removal of experiences that exists outside of straight, cis, white, males, but tells us how to do so with demands in a 29-page manifesto.    

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the premiere of MJ the Musical was postponed from 2020 until this month. Her most recent play, Clyde’s, a comedy, ran on Broadway from November 23 to January 16, and offered both in-person and virtual performances. This makes Nottage the the first Black female playwright to have three shows running on Broadway at the same time with Intimate Apparel, Clyde’s, and MJ the Musical. As a Brooklyn native, many of Nottage’s plays are performed in New York. Nottage has previously addressed her lack of presence in D.C. theatres, and hopes that as a member of WSYWAT, this will change as Nottage’s plays amplify voices that are necessary in theatre now more than ever.

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