Can a play speak for those betrayed by the American dream?


Lynn Nottage, playwright and associate professor of theatre arts at Columbia, spent two and a half years in Reading, Pennsylvania, interviewing everyone from the mayor and police chief to former steelworkers, homeless individuals, social workers, and entrepreneurs. She found people hungry to tell their stories.

These conversations inform her play Sweat, which follows a group of Reading steelworkers faced with the possibility of losing their jobs. Two friends, Jason and Chris, their mothers, Tracey and Cynthia, and a co-worker, Jessie, regularly gather at a bar to talk, celebrate, and complain about their lives. As rumors grow about imminent layoffs, racial and economic fault lines are exposed, often explosively.

Sweat ran on Broadway from March to June 2017 after a sold-out run at The Public Theater in fall 2016, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2017. The Pulitzer judges described the play as “a nuanced yet powerful drama that reminds audiences of the stacked deck still facing workers searching for the American dream.” Sweat 

Nottage believes in the power of artists to reflect and raise questions. In Sweat, she draws attention to the serious problems created by poverty and economic stagnation while remaining true to the voices of those she met in Reading. Learn more.

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