Lynn Nottage

Lynn Nottage
Born 1964 (age 5152)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Occupation Playwright, professor lecturer
Alma mater Brown University
Yale University
Spouse Tony Gerber
Child(ren) Ruby Gerber and Melkamu Gerber
Magnum opus Ruined
Awards Pulitzer Prize
Obie Award

Lynn Nottage (born 1964) is an American playwright whose work often deals with the lives of women of African descent. She is an associate professor of theater at Columbia University and a lecturer in playwriting at Yale University.

Nottage was born in Brooklyn and is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005, and a MacArthur Grant in 2007.[1] She won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2009 for Ruined. She won the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Sweat.

Early life

Born in Brooklyn on November 2, 1964 to a schoolteacher and a child psychologist, Nottage attended New York's High School of Music & Art.[2] Inspired by school productions of Annie and The Wiz, she penned her first play, The Darker Side of Verona, which told the story of an African American Shakespearean company. After attending Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, Nottage worked in Amnesty International's press office for four years.[3]


She is the co-founder of the production company, Market Road Films, whose most recent projects include The Notorious Mr. Bout, directed by Tony Gerber. Maxim Pozdorovkin (Premiere/Sundance 2014); First to Fall, directed by Rachel Beth Anderson (Premiere/ IDFA, 2013); and Remote Control (Premiere/Busan 2013- New Currents Award). Over the years, she has developed original projects for HBO, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Showtime, This is That, and Harpo Productions.[4]

Nottage's plays have been produced Off-Broadway and regionally by The Acting Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alliance Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Capital Repertory Theatre, City Theatre, Crossroads Theatre, Freedom Repertory Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Second Stage Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Vineyard Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Goodman Theater, The Guthrie, and many others.


One of her best-known plays is Intimate Apparel, co-commissioned and produced at Baltimore's Center Stage, where it premiered in February 2003 and South Coast Repertory. It was highly acclaimed in its Off-Broadway production in 2004, starring Viola Davis. She wrote a companion piece to Intimate Apparel, the OBIE award winning Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine, which is set 100 years later. The West Coast premiere of her Crumbs from the Table of Joy, at South Coast Repertory, earned two NAACP Theatre Awards for performance.

Nottage's play, Ruined, dramatizes the plight of Congolese women surviving civil war. It premiered in 2007 in the Goodman Theater (Chicago) New Stages Series, and transferred to Off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Ruined was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Nottage was a finalist for the 2009 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Ruined.[5]

Her other plays include the children’s musical, A Walk Through Time; Mud, River, Stone (Blackburn Prize finalist); Por’knockers; and Las Meninas.

Her play Poof! (Heideman Award) was broadcast on PBS in 2002, with the cast that featured Rosie Perez and Viola Davis.[6][7] It was initially presented in 1993 at the Actors Theatre Of Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky) during the Humana Festival of New American Plays.[8][9]

Her play By the Way, Meet Vera Stark premiered Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre on May 9, 2011 with direction by Jo Bonney, and received rave reviews.[10] The play is a "funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood."[11] The play was nominated for the 2012 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Play. The play ran at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in September 2012, starring Sanaa Lathan, who played the role of the maid who becomes a stage star.[12]

Nottage contributed to the "dance-theatre musical" written Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens titled In Your Arms which premiered at the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, in September 2015. The piece consists of ten vignettes and was directed and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli. Her vignette is titled A Wedding Dance and was performed by Marija Juliette Abney and Adesola Osakalumi with The Company.[13]

She received a commission from Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Arena Stage. The play that she wrote as a result, Sweat, was presented at the festival in Ashland, Oregon during July 29, 2015 to October 31, 2015 and directed by Kate Whoriskey.[14][15] The play takes place in Reading, Pennsylvania, and involves steel workers who have been locked out of their factory workplace.[16] The play was produced at the Arena Stage (Washington, DC) from January 15, 2016 to February 21, 2016, directed by Kate Whoriskey.[17] Nottage won the 2015-16 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for this play.[18][19][20][21]Sweat was a finalist for the 2016 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama.[22][23] Sweat premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater on October 18, 2016 (previews), officially on November 3, again directed by Whoriskey.[24] The cast features Carlo Alban (Oscar), James Colby (Stan), Khris Davis (Chris), Johanna Day (Tracey), John Earl Jelks (Brucie), Will Pullen (Jason), Miriam Shor (Jessie), Lance Coadie Williams (Evan), and Michelle Wilson (Cynthia).[25][26]


Nottage reading at Occupy Wall Street, November 2011

On May 13, 2009, Nottage spoke at a public reception in Washington, DC following a United States Senate Foreign Relations joint subcommittee hearing entitled "Confronting Rape and Other Forms of Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones," with case studies on the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.[27]


The Guardian noted: "Nottage’ has garnered praise for bringing challenging and often forgotten, stories onto the stage. ... Ruined explored the use of rape as a weapon against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Intimate Apparel focused on a lonely black seamstress working in New York in 1905....Future areas the 51-year-old is keen to explore in her plays includes the American prison industrial complex, which is “destroying the lives of so many men of colour” but is barely talked about in the national conversation or on the stage. Yet Nottage also expressed disappointment that her work was constantly defined by both her own race and gender, unlike her white male counterparts."[28]


She won the 2016 PEN/Laura Pels Award, Master American Dramatist.[29][30]

She has been awarded playwriting fellowships from Manhattan Theatre Club, New Dramatists, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is also the recipient of a Playwrights Horizons Amblin/Dreamworks commission and a National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group grant for a year-long residency at Freedom Repertory Theater in Philadelphia. Nottage is an alumnus of New Dramatists. In 2010, she was awarded the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, which includes a prize of $200,000.[31]

In announcing the MacArthur Fellowship for 2007, the foundation said: "Lynn Nottage is an original voice in American theater..."[1]

She received the Guggenheim Grant, Drama and Performance Art, in 2005.[32] She received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a playwright in mid-career in 2004.

She was a finalist for the 2001 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Mud, River, Stone.[33]



  1. 1 2 "Lynn Nottage", accessed June 7, 2016
  2. KILIAN, MICHAEL. "Playwright tells intimate tales: Lynn Nottage wrote 2 works simultaneously," Chicago Tribune (June 17, 2004).
  3. Michel Martin (2007-09-25). Tell Me More (mpeg) (Radio broadcast). NPR.
  4. Jim Lehrer (2009-06-15). NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (mpeg) (Television production). PBS.
  5. Jones, Kenneth. "Playwrights Nottage, Lowe, Healy, Meriwether Are Among Blackburn Prize Finalists", February 10, 2009
  6. "'Poof!' Overview and Cast", accessed February 24, 2016
  7. Gans, Andrew. "Nottage's "Poof!" to Be Part of PBS' American Shorts Series", July 29, 2001
  8. "Lynn Nottage at Doollee", accessed February 24, 2016
  9. Nottage, Lynn. Poof!, "'Crumbs from the Table of Joy' and Other Plays", Theatre Communications Group, 2003, ISBN 1559367075, p.89
  10. Brantley, Ben (May 9, 2011). "A Black Actress Trying to Rise Above a Maid". The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  11. Jones, Kenneth. "Nottage's 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' Gets Extra Week at Off-Broadway's Second Stage", April 27, 2011
  12. Jones, Kenneth. "Vera Stark, Ready for Her L.A. Close-Up, Opens Sept. 26; Sanaa Lathan Stars", September 26, 2012
  13. Viagas, Robert. "The Verdict: Critics Review 'In Your Arms', With Donna McKechnie, at Old Globe " Playbill, September 28, 2015
  14. Weinerdt-Kent, Rob. "How Lynn Nottage, Inveterate Wanderer, Found Her Way to Reading and ‘Sweat’", July 10, 2015
  15. Sweat, accessed August 25, 2015
  16. Scott, Aaron. "Oregon Shakespeare Festival Sweats America's De-Industrialization With New Play", July 30, 2015
  17. "Press Release. Sweat", December 2, 2015
  18. Gordon, David. "Lynn Nottage Receives 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize", February 22, 2016
  19. Editors. "Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Announces 2015–16 Finalists" American Theatre, January 26, 2016
  20. Clement, Olivia. "Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalists Announced", January 27, 2016
  21. "Sweat" by Lynn Nottage Wins 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize", accessed February 22, 2016
  22. "Finalists Announced for 2016 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired By American History", January 27, 2016, accessed January 28, 2016
  23. Viagas, Robert. "Kennedy Prize for Drama Goes to 'Hamilton'", February 22, 2016
  24. Clement, Olivia. "David Byrne, Harvey Fierstein, Nia Vardalos and Lynn Nottage Tapped For Public Season" Playbill, May 19, 2016
  25. Rickwald, Bethany. "Miriam Shor, John Earl Jelks, and More Cast in Lynn Nottage's 'Sweat'", September 13, 2016
  26. Clement, Olivia, "Lynn Nottage’s 'Sweat' Opens at The Public Tonight" Playbill, November 3, 2016
  27. Patrick Healy. "Women of ‘Ruined’ to Speak in Washington About Rape"The New York Times, May 12, 2009
  28. Ellis-Petersen, Hannah. "Playwright Lynn Nottage: theatre is the last bastion of segregation" The Guardian, February 22, 2016
  29. Maggie Galehouse (March 1, 2016). "PEN Literary Award winners announced". Chron. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  30. "2016 PEN Literary Award Winners". PEN. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  31. Peter, Thomas. "Lynn Nottage Awarded Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award Nov. 8; Davis, Rose Perform Her Work", November 8, 2010
  32. "Lynn Nottage", accessed June 7, 2016
  33. "Blackburn Prize Honors Two Women" Backstage, February 21, 2001
  34. Poof, accessed November 6, 2016
  35. Por'Knockers, accessed November 6, 2016
  36. Daniels, Robert L. "Review. 'Mud, River, Stone' " Variety, December 21, 1997
  37. Ehren, Christine. "Forbidden Love Reigns in San Jose With Nottage's 'Las Meninas' March 16-April 14 Playbill, March 14, 2002
  38. Manohla Dargis. "Just a Maid in Movies, but Not Forgotten", The New York Times, April 21, 2011
  39. Perry, Jennifer. "BWW Reviews: Arena Stage's 'Our War' - Nothing if Not Ambitious", October 27, 2014

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