Lynn Nottage is the only living American playwright to have won the Pulitzer Prize multiple times. Her first one came in 2009 for Ruined, a drama about a small bar in a mining town in the Congo that serves soldiers from both sides of that country’s civil war. She received her second Pulitzer in 2017 for Sweat, a drama about the downfall of Reading, Pennsylvania, that largely takes place in a bar frequented by union workers as they find themselves caught between solidarity and trying to make rent. Nottage has received a number of prestigious awards for her playwriting, including a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005.
Lynn Nottage was born in 1964 in New York City, and grew up in Brooklyn. She attended the High School of Music and Art in New York, and then attended Brown University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1986. Nottage completed her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1989 at Yale School of Drama. Although she worked as a press officer for Amnesty International, she later returned to writing. A short play, Poof!, which won an award, reignited her desire to write scripts. Since then, most of Nottage’s career has been in drama. Her plays have been produced worldwide.
After Poof!, Nottage turned her attention to an article she had read about unpaid soldiers in Mozambique who took matters into their own hands by nabbing hostages. She wrote the play Mud, River, Stone in 1997. One of her plays to see publication was Crumbs from the Table of Joy, which tells the story of a widower and his two daughters who move from Florida to New York to live with family. Set in the 1950s, the African-American family faces personal struggles, along with social struggles in the upheaval of the day. Intimate Apparel was also published in 2004, and tells the story of a long-distance relationship and the challenges that come when the couple marries.
Nottage is also a keen satirist with an eye toward metatheatrical playfulness. Evident in her 2011 play By The Way, Meet Vera Stark. This play tells the story of a little-known but much beloved black actress in Hollywood’s golden age. A screwball comedy in which Vera and several of her friends vie for roles in The Belle of New Orleans, a melodrama about a prostitute whose wealthy beau doesn’t realize she’s only passing for white. The second act bounces between a talk show appearance by Vera in the 1970s and an academic panel about her work and legacy in the 2000s. This could feel more like a commentary than a play. However, in the competent hands of Nottage, it becomes a multi-faceted and hilarious look at race, gender, colorism, and representation.
Why did she choose to write Vera Stark and Fabulation? “I’ve become so known for my tragedies, these very heavy, social realist plays, and I think people forget that I’m a satirist as well and that I can be very, very funny. I thought in this particular moment that we need some humor, and I thought, I don’t want to sit in rehearsal and feel like I’m being punched in the stomach. I just want something that’s going to make me laugh.”
Although published in 2005 by Dramatists Play Service, Fabulation or, The Re-Education of Undine, was first produced in 2004. It is a riches-to-rags story that follows the apparent decline of Undine from her high-profile job in Manhattan back to the projects where she grew up. Although she loses her status, wealth, and pride, she gains wisdom and self-knowledge that would have eluded her in her prior existence. Facing the people from her past, she must come to accept them and herself as she learns that one can never truly outrun the past.
Enjoy CCBC’s productions of two plays by Lynn Nottage:
See Intimate Apparel March 4 – 13 at CCBC Dundalk, College Community Center, John E. Ravekes Theatre.
Performance Dates: March 4, 5, 11, 12 at 8 p.m., March 6, 13 at 3 p.m.
General admission $22, Seniors $20, Students/children $15
See Fabulation or, The Re-Education of Undine March 17- 21 at CCBC Essex, Robert & Eleanor Romadka College Center, F. Scott Black Theatre.
Performance Dates: March 17 at 11:10 a.m., March 18, 19 at 7 p.m., March 20 at 3 p.m. (ASL Interpreted), and March 21 at 10 a.m.
General admission $10, Seniors, Students, CCBC Faculty/Staff/Alumni $5, FREE for CCBC Students with current ID
Purchase tickets online at www.ccbctickets or call the Box Office at 443-840-ARTS.
Seating is limited and arranged to ensure social distancing, masks are required. CCBC requires masks be worn indoors at all times at any CCBC facility. Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around your face and chin. Mask must be worn regardless of vaccination status. For the most up-to-date information visit CCBCMD.EDU/TOGETHER.