‘Sweat’ explores themes of race, gender, ethnicity, class, and labor relations in a deeply human way
November 1, 2021
The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts will present Lynn Nottage’s award-winning “Sweat” for eight performances, opening on Nov. 9 in Squires Studio Theatre.
Centered on the working class of Reading, Pennsylvania, “Sweat” tells the story of a group of friends who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets, and laughs while working together on the factory floor. When layoffs and picket lines begin to chip away at their trust, the friends find themselves pitted against each other in a fight to stay afloat.
When American playwright and screenwriter Nottage won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Sweat” in 2017, she became the first and only woman to have won the prize twice, having also won it for “Ruined” in 2009.
In commenting on the origins of “Sweat,” Nottage said, “I really set about to figure out how poverty and economic stagnation was really shifting the American narrative. One of the reasons that I wanted to write ‘Sweat’ is that I really wanted to put this very fractured city — a city in which everyone was hurting in isolation — I wanted to put those people into dialogue so they all recognized that they all shared this one central narrative.
“‘Sweat’ I really feel is the American story. It tells the story of Reading, Pennsylvania, but it be could any place, it could be any post-industrial city across the landscape.”
“Lynn Nottage has given us an extraordinary story of a community of individuals whose stories we don’t get to hear, never mind embody, very often,” said Susanna Rinehart, an associate professor of performance, who is directing the play at Virginia Tech. “Working with this diverse cast of student actors to climb inside this story has been a gift. She has created exactly the ensemble piece she set out to create — empathetic, searching, searing, honest, and full of humanity — and I found exactly the same qualities in this cast as we have worked together. The resonance and relevance is immediate, as we rehearsed throughout what has come to be called Striketober 2021. I hope a lot of people come to see it.”
Nottage said her dream is that audience members, after seeing the play, will be inspired to sit down and talk to someone with whom they’ve never had a conversation.
“I hope that they will ask really tough conversations, not just of themselves but of the legislators and the people who are in power,” she said. “I also hope that they will understand the power of art and be more willing to engage with storytelling.”
Performances of “Sweat” are:
Nov. 9–12 at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 14 at 2 p.m.
Nov. 14–16 at 7:30 p.m.
All performances are in the Squires Studio Theatre, located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Avenue on the Virginia Tech campus.
Tickets and parking
Tickets, which are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors and students, may be purchased through the Moss Arts Center ticket office in person or online. Tickets will be available at the door in the Squires Student Center beginning one hour prior to the performance. For online purchase, find ticket links here.
All university community members and visitors will need to display a parking permit, use the ParkMobile app, pay a fee, or pay using an hourly meter to park on the Blacksburg campus unless otherwise noted by signage. Find additional parking information here.
If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Susan Sanders prior to the event.
Written by Susan Sanders