Right now, it’s hard to find a theater in New York that is not canceling performances due to COVID. It is also, by the way, difficult to find one that is not offering a Lynn Nottage show. “Clyde’s,” a comedy-drama, is hanging on at Second Stage’s Hayes Theatre. “Intimate Apparel,” one of her first, is part of a Met/Lincoln Center collaborative program. It is worth noting that the late Stephen Sondheim wrote to the playwright in 2004, praising “Intimate Apparel” and telling her, “It reminded me of why I wanted to write for the theater in the first place.”
Finally, previews continue (at least post-Christmas holidays) for “MJ,” the new Broadway musical about Michael Jackson, for which Nottage has written the book. The show takes place in 1992 —conveniently before the pop star faced abuse allegations. It has a long preview period and does not officially open until February 1.
As if she’s not making enough news, Nottage and the Second Stage recently announced that “Clyde’s” will be simulcast, in addition to the in-person performances, between January 4 and January 16. “The closest to Broadway you can get from the comfort of your home!” read the announcement. It is a generous way to reach out to — and hopefully seduce — non-stage-goers. And to reward those who love theater but aren’t yet comfortable enough to sit in one. The “experiment,” as Second Stage calls it, is being closely watched by other productions.
Nottage told me that all her productivity coincided with something many writers experience. “I also spent this past year facing down a paralyzing writer’s block, while beating back encroaching deadlines,” she said. “The by-product of 18 hard months away from theater was the unexpected time that I got to spend with my family, and the quiet space it gave me to read, think, meditate, do yoga and cook.”
The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner is clearly a creature of the stage, but she is moving beyond as we speak. “During 2021, I thought more intentionally about writing and producing for film and television,” she said, “and I put real muscle into developing new projects.” But until “MJ” and the operatic version of “Intimate Apparel” are up and ready — what she calls a “Herculean task” — everything else is on hold.
So, like so many others, she juggles. “I won’t lie,” she says, “it has been a bit of a challenge teaching full time, mounting three new shows, managing my other writing commitments, and parenting. I’ve worked seven days a week for the last two months, with only one day off.”
My hunch is Lynn Nottage does more in that one day than most of us do in a year.
“During 2021, I thought more intentionally about writing and producing for film and television, and I put real muscle into developing new projects.” Playwright Lynn Nottage