EXCERPTS FROM THE ARTICLE
Below are excerpts from the October 17, 2017 Baltimore Sun article on Intimate Apparel.
LYNN NOTTAGE'S 'INTIMATE APPAREL' TO GET REVIVAL AT EVERYMAN THEATRE
Lynn Nottage gives voice in her plays to people kept on the margins of society or the news media, people confined to the footnotes of history.
Her 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning work, “Sweat,” explored middle-class lives in a struggling American factory town. In “Ruined,” which won the 2009 Pulitzer, Nottage focused on women trapped in the horror of a Congolese civil war.
And in 2003, Nottage opened a window into African-American life in early 20th-century New York with “Intimate Apparel,” about a lonely seamstress trying to fulfill her dreams of love and a career against considerable odds. It premiered at Baltimore Center Stage and receives a revival from Everyman Theatre this weekend.
“It is my love song to my family.”
For the playwright, “Intimate Apparel” represents a particularly personal endeavor.
“It is my love song to my family,” she says.
The story behind that song started when the New York-born and -based Nottage, 52, discovered a photo of her great-grandmother.
“After dealing with my mother’s death and my grandmother’s senile dementia, I realized there was no one who could tell me anything about my grandmother’s mother,” Nottage says, “no one who could relate the family history.”
The little the playwright did know about the woman in the old picture was that she had been a seamstress and had married an immigrant from the Caribbean. Nottage headed to the New York Public Library to glean more about her great-grandmother’s era.
“A lot was written about African-Americans in the South or during the Great Migration,” Nottage says, “but there was a little period in between, especially what was happening in urban centers, that wasn’t written about much.”
Nottage dug into periodicals and newspapers to get a sense of New York life in 1905 and to flesh out the fictional character of a seamstress she named Esther. (Viola Davis played the part when “Intimate Apparel” was staged off-Broadway in 2004.)
“It’s imperative in all of us to find the stories that haven’t been told,” Nottage says. “African American women played an integral role in the shaping of this country, but they were almost invisible. I call this [play] my reclamation project. I’m hoping some young person will see [it] and be emboldened to go out and do some research.”