Playwright Lynn Nottage made history yesterday with the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize for her play “Sweat.” Ms. Nottage is the first woman to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. (Ms. Nottage’s previous Pulitzer Prize was in 2009 for “Ruined.”)
Ms. Nottage joins an esteemed group of playwrights who have won multiple Pulitzers, including Edward Albee, Eugene O’Neill, Robert E. Sherwood, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, and August Wilson. At the comparatively young age of 52 – and the only one in this group very much alive – she will hopefully have many more plays ahead of her.
From New York Times drama critic Ben Brantley in his recent review of “Sweat”:
“Though it takes place in 2000 and 2008, and one of its characters swears he will never vote again, ‘Sweat’ is the first work from a major American playwright to summon, with empathy and without judgment, the nationwide anxiety that helped put Donald J. Trump in the White House… For that reason alone, the arrival on Broadway of ‘Sweat,’ which originated at the fertile Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was previously staged in New York at the Public Theater, warrants serious applause. So does the fact that it marks the belated Broadway debut of Ms. Nottage, a justly acclaimed dramatist of ambitious scope and fierce focus.”
“Sweat” has an open-ended run at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street) on Broadway.
The Pulitzer Prize citation lauded Sweat, “For a nuanced yet powerful drama that reminds audiences of the stacked deck still facing workers searching for the American dream.”
The play tells the story of a group of friends in working-class Reading, Pennsylvania who worked together at a factory and shared their lives over laughs and drinks at the local watering hole. But when layoffs and picket lines loom, with their jobs under siege, they find themselves pitted against each other as they fight to stay afloat.
In a press release, Lynn Nottage said:
“I am grateful to the Pulitzer panel for recognizing my play. I share this honor with an amazing group of collaborators who poured their energy and passion into the making of Sweat. I am eternally thankful for their beautiful contributions – director Kate Whoriskey; Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arena Stages, which co-commissioned the play; producers Stuart Thompson and Louise Gund; The Public Theater; early support from the McCarter Theatre and The Lark; and the all of the casts, designers, and crew members.
However, this play would not exist if the good people of Reading, PA hadn’t so generously invited me into their community to listen to their uncensored stories. The role of an artist is to witness and reflect, and to be in dialogue with the culture at large. As a woman of color, I feel an even greater urgency to flex my voice, and it is gratifying to know that there is an audience that will lean in and engage even when the stories are challenging.”
Sweat, the play by newly minted two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, directed by Kate Whoriskey began performances at Studio 54 on March 4 and opened on March 26, 2017.
The full cast includes Carlo Albán (Oscar), James Colby (Stan), Khris Davis (Chris), Johanna Day (Tracey), John Earl Jelks (Brucie), Will Pullen (Jason), Lance Coadie Williams (Evan), Michelle Wilson (Cynthia), and Alison Wright (Jessie).
Sweat is produced on Broadway by Stuart Thompson and Louise Gund.
The creative team for Sweat features John Lee Beatty (scenic design), Jennifer Moeller (costume design), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting design), Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (sound design), and Jeff Sugg (projection design).
Photo of Lynn Nottage by Susan Johann