Lynn Nottage on ‘MJ’, ‘Intimate Apparel’ and how lockdown changed her

Opera music

Lynn Nottage had a hat-trick of performances on New York stages this season: the new opera “Intimate Apparel”, the Michael Jackson musical “MJ” and the play “Clyde’s”. How does she overcome that?

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

Leaning into comedy. “I want to create joyful theatre,” the playwright says in the new episode of Stagecraft, Varietytheater podcast.

“I want people to leave feeling good,” she continued. “I think a lot of my career I’ve written plays that are kinda tough and raise tough questions, and it’s not that I won’t do that anymore. But I feel like there’s something about the way humor opens the heart and allows access to different kinds of emotions that really appeals to me right now.

Also on the new Stagecraft, Nottage discussed the differences between an opera (like “Intimate Apparel”) and a musical (like “MJ”), and recalled the multiple tries it took to get the libretto for “Intimate Apparel”, his adaptation of his own play, okay.

As is tradition in opera, Nottage wrote the libretto (his first) before composer Ricky Ian Gordon wrote a single musical note. One thing that helped her: another music. “One of the things I did when I sat down to start the booklet was to build a soundtrack of the world and the music I imagined [the protagonist] Esther would listen, or what the Lower East Side would be like, or what the brothel would be like,” she said. “I tried to find these particular sounds, and that’s what I listened to while I was writing.”

She also revealed how she reflected on the complexity of weighing an artist’s creative legacy against her personal legacy — an issue she struggled to wrestle with in “MJ.”

“The phrase that I used, which has been a guiding principle, is simply, first, to replace judgment with curiosity,” she explained. “And the second thing is to maintain the complexity of the characters and understand that as an artist I’ve always leaned into complicated characters. That’s never going to change.

To hear the full conversation, listen to the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple podcast, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every two weeks.