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April 10, 2017—Calling her play Sweat a "nuanced yet powerful drama that reminds audiences of the stacked deck still facing workers searching for the American dream," judges awarded Lynn Nottage ’86 the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Drama today. Sweat, which played at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival through last October, focuses on a group of factory workers in a poor mill town whose lives are deeply affected by the loss of U.S. manufacturing  jobs. Before writing the play, Nottage did extensive interviews with workers in Reading, Pennsylvania. Michael Shulman of the New Yorker called Sweat "the first theatrical landmark of the Trump era, … a tough yet empathetic portrait of the America that came undone."

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Scott Kingsley
Lynn Nottage '86 at Brown in 2010.
This is Nottage's second Pulitzer. She also won in 2009 for her play Ruined, which deals with rape and survival in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo and for which she interviewed dozens of women there. "I had many, many of the romantic notions that African Americans bring to Africa," she told the BAM in 2009 about her trips to the Congo in 2004 and 2005. "That there's going to be someone there waiting to embrace you, an old woman who says, 'Come here, honey; I've been waiting for you forever. Give me a hug.' You realize, 'Oh. That old woman doesn't exist.'"

During a 2010 campus visit, Nottage, who received a MacArthur genius award in 2007, described her approach to drama: "The role of the theater artist is to keep her eyes open when everyone else's are shut. Theater helps us explore questions like how do we love, how do we go to war, how do we move through pain, how do we find happiness, how do we mourn, how do we heal."

Nottage, who grew up in Brooklyn, where she now lives with her husband, filmmaker Tony Gerber ’86, also described her influences: "I'm married to a Romanian Jewish man. I'm raising a biracial child and an African child adopted from Ethiopia.... My father-in-law is a gay man with a Mexican lover who is forty-three years his junior. My brother is a successful lawyer with shoulder-length dreadlocks, who is married to a working-class English woman who never went to college. And my sister-in-law is a clinically depressed psychologist who's married to a legally blind Vietnamese man who was raised by Christian missionaries."

 

 





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