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Uzo Aduba on Lynn Nottage’s ‘everlasting’ power on Broadway

2022 is the year that Lynn Nottage had both a play ("Clyde's") and a musical ("MJ") running simultaneously on Broadway, in addition to her opera adaptation of one of her plays ("Intimate Apparel") at Lincoln Center Theater and other projects.

Lynn Nottage at the 2022 Tony Awards (Kevin Mazur/Getty)

2022 is the year that Lynn Nottage had both a play (“Clyde’s”) and a musical (“MJ”) running simultaneously on Broadway, in addition to her opera adaptation of one of her plays (“Intimate Apparel”) at Lincoln Center Theater and other projects. Nottage was listed as the U.S.’ most-produced playwright of the 2022-2023 season by American Theatre magazine, with “Clyde’s” being the most-produced play and “Sweat” (her Pulitzer Prize-winning play) the fifth most-produced.

In interviews, Nottage herself has described this period in her career as a marathon. In a Broadway News interview earlier this year, Nottage said, “I’ve likened this to running the creative equivalent of an IronWoman, right? There has been a lot of work and training that has gone into allowing me to have the stamina to actually make it through not only COVID, but putting up three pieces of work during the most difficult moment in theater history. I had incredible collaborators who were passionate and supportive and whom I could lean on.”

And all of that work has paid off. On May 9, 2022, Nottage became the first playwright ever nominated for Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Book of a Musical in the same season (for “Clyde’s” and “MJ.”) Additional accolades this year have included the Audra McDonald Legacy Award at the inaugural Black Women on Broadway awards ceremony as well as induction into the Theater Hall of Fame.

For putting in the hard work during the pandemic, and for enriching Broadway and beyond with her work coming out of the shutdown, Lynn Nottage is Broadway Briefing’s 2022 Broadway Showperson of the Year.

The Power of Lynn Nottage by Uzo Aduba

She gave us wings. She gave us voice. She gave us space. The power of the work by Lynn Nottage, as part of the 2022-2023 Broadway season, is to create a dynamic, and welcome complexity of the often forgotten. She did this successfully in her recent Broadway outing, “Clyde’s.” Lynn’s work this season was so important because it offered a window into the everyday lives of people open to hope, in a world that is seemingly resistant of giving hope to them as they begin to piece their lives back together. They have repaid their debts to society, but we watch as The World makes clear that these types of debts are endless. But, the mastery of Lynn Nottage is that she imbues this environment with humor.

She corrals the purgatory nature of the characters’ circumstances around a metaphoric sandwich meant to serve as a blueprint for how to construct a life. That we all want something as simple as this midday meal, but the best ones are those filled with the surprises, unexpected and never explained bright touches that make the experience of living…worth living.

She offered us a sprite series of characters who have all too often been flatlined, and filled them with space to make their truth known from their own mouths. It’s important to be heard. She gave them voices. And etching. And self-possession. All while juggling two other shows — a Broadway juggernaut and a premiere opera — at the same time. Somehow, we would expect nothing less from a force like Lynn.

She did what Lynn has always excellently done, and that is to center the stories and voices of those often only privileged to hold space in the background or off to the side. She brought Broadway’s audience onto the sidelines and dared them to hold their gaze, to take in the interesting and thriving action happening there. Lynn is seasoned in this exercise and long since replicated, but she continues to show that her versatility in the form is everlasting.

To say that Lynn Nottage is a modern-day superhero of the American stage is an understatement. She is one of the best and brightest. She is the reason I sparked to return to Broadway this season after 10 years away. She is why so many artists, after playing or reading her words, grow to become the creatives we know and love today. She excites, invites and ignites with her writing, and did so again with “Clyde’s.” And we are all the better for it.