Lynn Nottage


Doris Duke Artist Award, 2016
Theatre

New York, NY

Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter, crafting works that are both deeply human and historically based. A rainforest bar/brothel in war-torn Congo is the setting for her OBIE and Drama Desk award-winning Ruined (2009). Inspired by personal interviews with Congo refugees, it combined humor and song with postcolonial and feminist politics. She is the co-Founder of the production company Market Road Films and has received multiple honors including the MacArthur Fellowship, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among others. She is an Associate Professor at Columbia School of the Arts. Her most recent play, Sweat (2015), won her the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for women playwrights. It premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arena Stage. She is also adapting her play Intimate Apparel into an opera with composer Ricky Ian Gordon.

  • Photo Credit: Susan Johann
    Lynn Nottage
  • Photo Credit: Jenny Graham
    Ruined (2009)
  • Photo Credit: Michael Lamont
    By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (2011)
  • Photo Credit: Michael Lamont
    By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (2011)
  • Photo Credit: C. Stanley Photography
    Sweat (2015)

Artistically, what do you do and why do you do it?

I write plays about dangerous things, such as love and optimism.

I want to create a theatre that explores the cultural tensions inherent in being an African American woman living in a multicultural society that is still struggling with the painful legacy of racism and sexism. Sustain the complexity of what it means to be a female artist from the African diaspora with a non-traditional narrative. My plays often grapple with issues of identity, using sexuality and the politics of desire to explore the complicated intersections of race, class, and power. I enjoy culling history and the headlines for provocative and unexplored stories about working people and women from the African Diaspora. I toy with popular assumptions about race and gender, with the hopes of arriving at an entirely fresh perspective. Subverting expectations is part of my artistic mission. I like to begin with the familiar, then add structural and storytelling ingredients that are surprising, jarring, at times, playful, and, at times, painful.