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Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage on why theater matters

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Artistic director Joseph Haj and playwright Lynn Nottage
Guthrie Theater's artistic director Joseph Haj and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage are seen during “In Conversation” on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis on July 22, 2019.
Amy Anderson | Courtesy of Guthrie Theater

Lynn Nottage is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright whose new play, "Floyd's," has its world premiere this weekend at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. She came to town for it, and joined the Guthrie's artistic director Joseph Haj for a conversation about the importance of theater. 

Why theater? — Lynn Nottage says it's about community. “It’s an opportunity for us to breathe the same air and exchange energy, and to have a really dynamic, vital conversation in ways that we can't do in any other forum,” Nottage says. “That’s what I love, and I think it’s become increasingly rare.”

Theater, she says, is “one of the few places where we really get to process our American narrative, in real time.” She adds that she loves plays that “raise the conversation” and that a playwright is able to get immediate feedback from the audience.  

Earlier in her life, she worked for several years at Amnesty International, and she says it shaped her as an artist. Upon returning to theater, she says it had recharged her energy into “writing and creating art that is designed to heal.” 

Her new play, “Floyd’s,” is one of three pieces inspired by Reading, Pa., where Nottage spent two years interviewing residents and listening. 

“There’s a part of me,” she says, “that can’t write a play without immersing myself in the environment of the play. … I think that the immersion is part of my creative process and I really love the research, and I love getting to know someplace absolutely.”

Nottage says it’s important to figure out “how to make theater in ways that aren’t dividing ourselves as much ... in which theater is made in places where people actually live and breathe. We need to decentralize where we tell our stories.”

Lynn Nottage is the only woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice — “Ruined” in 2009 and “Sweat” in 2017. She’s won numerous other important prizes. 

Guthrie Theater artistic director Joseph Haj interviewed Lynn Nottage on stage at the Guthrie on July 22, 2109. 

“Floyd’s” runs through Aug. 31, 2019.