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Broadway play ‘Sweat’ coming to Columbus Area Senior Center

October 14, 2018

Johanna Day and Michelle Wilson (foreground), in The Public Theater’s 2016 production of Sweat, written by Lynn Nottage and directed by Kate Whoriskey.

Columbus will get a taste of Broadway when the New York Public Theater brings “Sweat” to the Senior Center.

The play will be in Columbus for one night only, Thursday, Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m. Columbus Public Library is sponsoring this event, which is free. Due to mature language, themes and a fight scene, the play is suitable for audiences age 16 and older.

“Sweat” will be performed by New York Public Theater’s Mobile Unit, presenting the play in a month-long, five-state tour. According to Mobile Unit National Project Leader Chiara Klein, the play features seasoned actors, some of whom performed in the Broadway production.

“We brought our ‘A’ team,” Klein said. “They are all actors who have been on and off Broadway, on TV, in films, so we are not bringing just anybody, we are bringing our very best. It just happens to be in a community center in Columbus, not a giant theater in Madison.”

“Sweat” tells the story of a group of friends sharing laughs and life stories, while swilling beer in a Reading, Pennsylvania bar. They all work in a steel mill on an assembly line, but when layoffs come and picket lines start to form, the friends’ trust is put to the test. The play, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, follows characters’ lives from 2000-2008.

Klein said the play appeals to Midwest and Rust Belt residents, especially those touched by factories closing and the economic downturn a decade ago. The tour runs through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Klein said the play conjures thought about how communities deal with socio-economic setbacks.

“The mobile unit’s guiding principal is about meeting communities where they are to share in the story-telling performance experience,” Klein said. “We don’t go to big cities with theaters, we bring them directly to communities we think would want to engage in dialogue the play brings up.”

“Sweat” runs about two hours with one 15-minute intermission. It will be followed by a conversation with actors and theater representatives. According to Klein, the play has received stellar feedback through the first few weeks of the tour.

“Our hope with this play was that it would open up conversation and people would relate it to their own experiences, that it would resonate,” Klein said. “But we couldn’t have imagined how conversations after the play have gone. People have been so generous with offering their stories that it’s been incredible community events.”

Klein said the play is very entertaining, with raw emotion and different than most stage performances. She said the play appeals to a wide-range of audiences.

Artistic Director Oskar Eustis said “Sweat” brings a Broadway caliber performance to audiences often ignored by New York theater.

““The tour is our most dramatic attempt to break out of our New York bubble and speak to those who the non-profit theater has largely ignored: the rural communities of the upper Midwest,” Eustis said.

Nottage, who earned a Best Drama Pulitzer for “Sweat” in 2017, tells the story of Reading, but relates to many communities hit hard by the recession.

“It could be any post-industrial city across the landscape,” Nottage said. “One of the beautiful things about what we’re trying to do with the Mobile Unit National Tour is to link narratives and bring people not just in the communities into dialogue, but people across communities into dialogue and figure out how can we strategize and shift the national conversation.”

For more information, contact the library at 920-623-5910 or send email to info@columbuspubliclibrary.com.

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