Thursday, February 9, 2023

Lynn Nottage

Today the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage came to City College where I teach. She was being honored at the Langston Hughes Festival, but she also took time to speak with students in the theatre department.

Nottage is known for a number of plays she's written, including Fabulation, Ruined, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, and Sweat. However, she is also an activist and formerly worked for Amnesty International. While she views her art as activism as well, it tends to be more subtle in how it calls for social change.

For instance, when Nottage wrote Intimate Apparel at the beginning of this century, most political plays were filled with fiery anger. (It was during the administration of George W. Bush, after all.) However, Nottage chose to instead write a simple, quiet play about a seamstress at the beginning of the 20th century with few opportunities to pursue her dreams.

Being subtle doesn't mean having to give up ambitions, though, and there is a form of protest in the play's depiction of its central character. Sometimes, simply providing representation on the stage can be a potent political act, as is the case with an intimate portrayal of a disempowered character.

Speaking to the students today, Nottage gave an example of the power or representation. Recently, she said, she noticed she was getting numerous friend requests over Facebook from people in Iran. She had no idea why, as she had never even been to the country.

It turns out that her short play Poof! which premiered originally in 1993 had recently been performed by a famous Iranian actress who appeared in the play without a hijab. That was enough to win her fans half way around the world!

Thank you, Lynn Nottage, for coming to City College and for speaking with our students. It was a day to remember!