ADV – Leaderboard

Lynn Nottage. (Photo by Lynn Savarese)

The Subtext: Lynn Nottage, Learning From Every Job

This month Brian talks to the prolific and decorated playwright about her early struggles and triumphs, and that time she got stuck in the Lincoln Center bathroom.

Each month Brian James Polak (he/him) talks to playwrights about the things usually left unsaid. In conversations that dive into life’s muck, we learn what irks, agitates, motivates, inspires and—ultimately—what makes writers tick.

On this month’s episode, Brian catches up with the very active Lynn Nottage, who is in the midst of the busiest theatre season of her career. Recently nominated for multiple Tony awards—Clyde’s for Best Play, and MJ the Musical for Best Book to a Musical—she also debuted an operatic version of her play Intimate Apparel at Lincoln Center Theater.

Nottage—who has received two Pulitzers for Drama (for Ruined in 2009 and for Sweat in 2017) and a MacArthur “genius” fellowship—talks to Brian about the little victories in a playwriting career that can motivate a writer through early struggles. She recalls how a class with Paula Vogel focused her on dramatic writing, and why her first play in grad school made Lloyd Richards angry.

Indeed, though she is among the most decorated playwrights alive today, Nottage is careful to note that her career didn’t take off immediately. She discusses the four years she worked for Amnesty International after grad school and the decade-long struggle that followed, as she worked in many different jobs to pay the bills—all of which may have given her the sense of working people’s lives that informs all of her work.

This episode can also be found here.

Subscribe to the Subtext on iTunesSpotifyStitcherGoogle PlayTuneIn, or via its RSS feed.

Have something you’d like to say to the Subtext? Call 505-302-1235. Your message might be used on a future episode. You can also email the podcast at or send a tweet to @SubtextPodcast.

Support American Theatre: a just and thriving theatre ecology begins with information for all. Please join us in this mission by making a donation to our publisher, Theatre Communications Group. When you support American Theatre magazine and TCG, you support a long legacy of quality nonprofit arts journalism. Click here to make your fully tax-deductible donation today!

ADV – Billboard