We will open the Spring Semester of our 2012–13 season with Lynn Nottage’s deeply moving portrait of a middle-aged African-American woman, Intimate Apparel. The production will be directed by special guest to Indiana University, Ron Himes.
Intimate Apparel explores the world surrounding Esther Mills, a thirty-five year old African-American seamstress living in early 20th-century Manhattan. Having never learned to read, the resourceful Esther manages to turn her gift for sewing into a successful trade. Yet as she makes her living creating custom-made lingerie for women of all types, her love life feels empty. When she receives a letter from George Armstrong, a native of Barbados who is working on the Panama Canal, two of her loyal clients help her carry on a long-distance romance–a romance that carries as much pain as it does promise.
What some of the critics have written about the play:
“Nottage’s play has a delicacy and eloquence that seem absolutely right for the time she is depicting.” The New York Daily News
“Ms. Nottage has done so much good historical research … I want Ms. Nottage to keep working with this form; we see it so little, and we need it so much.” The New York Times
Directed by Guest Artist Ron Himes
Ron Himes, now on campus conducting rehearsals for the show, is the Henry E. Hampton Artist-in-Residence at Washington University in St. Louis. He is both the founder and Producing Director of St. Louis’s The Black Rep, one of the largest professional African-American theatres in the United States. He has directed at numerous professional theatres and universities, including two productions at Indiana Repertory Theatre. Mr. Himes believes that Bloomington audiences will be in for an entertaining and moving experience when the IU production of Intimate Apparel opens February 1.
“Lynn [Nottage] is a great storyteller,” said Mr. Himes. “And she is a particularly great writer of women and women’s stories. The things that she does with language give actors a lot to work with and often inspire their best performances.”
Lynn Nottage, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright
While Lynn Nottage has by no means shied away from delving into themes of race and gender in her work, she simultaneously manages to transcend cultural barriers with plays that speak to universal, human truths. As she told the Chicago Tribune, “I have no interest in being labeled. I want to continue to evolve as a playwright, and my evolution is complex.”
Having directed Ms. Nottage’s work before (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined as well as Intimate Apparel, both at The Black Rep), Mr. Himes is keenly aware of this playwright’s unique voice and the power of her characters. “At the heart of this play is a tragic love story,” he says. “It’s Esther’s play. The goal for this production will be the same as any professional production. We want to tell the story. ”
Intimate Apparel will be presented in the Wells-Metz Theatre at 7:30 P.M. February 1, 2, 5–9. There is also a 2:00 P.M. matinee on February 9.
—adapted from the IU Theatre’s press release for Intimate Apparel
EDIT: Added photo of Ron Himes Jan. 17, 2013