March 22, 2022
The Theatre Program at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will present “Intimate Apparel,” a delicate play about a fiercely resilient Black woman during the dawn of the 20th century, in person at MCLA’s Venable Theater, beginning Friday, April 1, 2022, through Sunday, April 10, 2022.
For more information or to reserve tickets, please visit https://www.onthestage.tickets/show/mcla6/intimate-apparel-40737.
Written by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, “Intimate Apparel” was the winner of the 2004 Steinberg New Play Award, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award is directed by Berkshire native and co-founder of the Berkshire Fringe, Sara Katzoff.
The show follows Esther Mills, a Black seamstress who supports herself by sewing beautiful corsets and women’s undergarments. Set in Lower Manhattan in 1905 at the very cusp of the Great Migration, the play shows a Black woman taking control of her life during a time when tens of thousands of Black folks were making their journey to New York City from the American South and tens of thousands of immigrants were passing through Ellis Island from Europe.
Esther sews for clients ranging from prostitutes to wealthy debutantes and quietly dreams of opening a beauty parlor to give the Black women of her community the royal treatment she sees her white clients enjoy. A warm affection develops between the Orthodox Jewish man who sells her fabric, but any relationship between them is strictly forbidden. When she receives a romantic letter from a mysterious Caribbean suitor, her life changes. Ultimately, she realizes that only through her own self-determination will she be able to refashion a new life for herself.
Based on the life of her grandmother, playwright Lynn Nottage described her creative process as “searching for this woman who was part of the fabric of my life, but who was very much a mystery to me.”
Katzoff writes, “We see her hope, ambitions, and dreams during a time in history where Black women are rarely recognized as being entrepreneurs. By writing this play, Nottage has remade a vital tapestry of her own lineage. Through Esther Mill’s craftsmanship and discretion as a seamstress, she becomes a ‘thread’ weaving a rich tapestry of the ‘thousands of tiny stitches’ of the immigrant and migrant American experience.” She says that “Although Esther's own thread is one of longing and heartbreak, her story is ultimately one of hope, agency and resilience.”
Intimate Apparel features a talented cast of students from MCLA’s award-winning Theatre
Program. Zurie Adams (Esther), Abby Daggett (Mrs. Van Buren), and Comfort Amcheampong
(Mrs. Dickson), alongside Sajaira Hudson (Mayme), John Archer-Harvey (George), and
introducing Ahmed Reda (Mr. Marks). The creative team includes Jeremy Winchester (Set
Designer), Michaela Petrovich (Costume Designer), Anthony Simon (Lighting Designer),
James W. Bilnoski (Technical Director), Aedan Maginnis (Stage
Manager), Nadia Frye Leinhos (Dramaturge), and Laura Standley (Intimacy Director/Dialect Coach).
About the MCLA Theatre Program
The Theatre Program at MCLA develops innovative theatre artists prepared for careers in theatre and graduate study. In the intimate, culturally rich setting of the Berkshires, students hone their craft through intensive studio training and hands-on experience, within the context of their broader liberal arts education. Opportunities for practical experience abound, from courses in acting, directing, design and production to working alongside a faculty of talented professionals in our award-winning production season. On stage and in the classroom, theatre students at MCLA make theatre of the highest quality, as they explore the rich tradition of this unique, multi-disciplinary art form.