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Drama Rehearsal

Award-Winning Author, Lynn Nottage Shares Her Journey of Empowering People

Lynn Nottage Visit 1
The Spelman College Department of Theater and Performance, in partnership with the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative and the Lilly Foundation, presented "The Writers Studio" featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Lynn Nottage on Monday, Feb. 26, in the Baldwin Burroughs Theatre.

Nottage held a conversation with Aku Kadogo, chair of theater and performance, about the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative, which is a fellowship that encourages women of color and non-binary playwrights to pursue graduate work.

“It’s quite an honor to be here. When we were envisioning the Lorraine Hansberry statue, one of our great dreams was to actually bring it to Spelman College and have her live amongst the community. One of the reasons we created this sculpture as an amplifier so people can see – every single day – a Black woman, a Black woman activist, a Black woman writer and sit with her and get inspired to be in dialogue with what she stood for," Nottage said. "One of the things that we really believe is that who we choose to memorialize really speaks to what we value in this culture. We wanted to demonstrate that the words of Black women are immensely valuable."

To Sit A While Art Display

To Sit A While

Students and visitors were treated to a walking introduction. The presentation started outside, where they viewed “To Sit A While,” an art display created by artist Alison Saar in 2022. Saar’s work features the figure of Hansberry surrounded by five bronze chairs, each representing a different aspect of her life and work. The life-size chairs are an invitation to the public to do just that: to sit with her and think.

To Sit A While Display 3

The Lorraine Hansberry Fellowship

"The reason we created the (Lorraine Hansberry) fellowship is because once women are inspired to write plays, where are they going to go to nurture their voices? We’ve discovered that graduate school really is a pathway to a professional career," Nottage said.

Each Fellow will receive a $25,000 stipend for each year of their matriculation, up to $75,000 during the course of their graduate degree. The funds will be dedicated to living expenses not covered by subsidized tuition to ensure the Fellows have meaningful and protected time to write, work with collaborators, and benefit from the guidance of professional mentors in their respective fields.

"Many of us really found our voices when we had the resources to dig in. We’ve discovered that graduate schools are expensive, and as a result, there are so few women of color and even Black women that are going for degrees. We felt, how can we create something that allows people not to have to worry," Nottage said. "It’s really important for us to have storytellers. I’ve been teaching for 21 years, and one of my great regrets is that in all of that time of teaching graduate school, I’ve only taught four Black women. We can’t permit this to happen anymore. That’s why the Lorraine Hansberry Fellowship exists – so that money won’t be the obstacle to opportunity."

Encouragement for Spelman Students

Large Blue Quote LeftI’ve been thinking a lot about joy and being an artist. It’s following your joy, regardless of what you do. Too often, there’s this burden that’s put on our shoulders to achieve and be successful and not enough emphasis is put on finding happiness and joy and things that when you wake up in the morning, you’re so happy to be there and doing it. If you can combine those things, other things will follow," Nottage said.

About Lynn Nottage

Nottage is a playwright and a screenwriter. She is the first, and remains the only, woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world.

Most recently, Nottage premiered MJ the Musical, directed by Christopher Wheeldon and featuring the music of Michael Jackson, at the Neil Simon Theater on Broadway, Clyde's directed by Kate Whoriskey, at Second Stage Theater on Broadway and an opera adaptation of her play Intimate Apparel composed by Ricky Ian Gordon and directed by Bart Sher, commissioned by The Met/Lincoln Center Theater. 

 Her other work includes, Floyd's (retitled- Clyde's) (Guthrie Theater), the musical adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's novel The Secret Life of Bees, with music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (The Almeida Theatre/The Atlantic Theater), Mlima’s Tale (Public Theater), By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lilly Award, Drama Desk Nomination- Second Stage/Signature Theater), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award- MTC/Goodman Theater); Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play Center Stage/SCR/ Roundabout Theater); Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award - Playwrights Horizons/Signature Theater); Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’knockers; and POOF!

Her play Sweat (Pulitzer Prize, Evening Standard Award, Obie Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Tony Nomination, Drama Desk Nomination) moved to Broadway after a sold-out run at The Public Theater. It premiered and was commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival American Revolutions History Cycle/Arena Stage. Inspired by her research on Sweat, Nottage developed This is Reading, a performance installation based on two years of interviews, at the Franklin Street, Reading Railroad Station in Reading, PA in July 2017.

The Alison Saar travelin' sculpture, "To Sit Awhile" is part of the initiative and encourages us to contemplate Hansberry's journey and indeed to sit and think will be on Spelman's campus until May 2024.