KU Theatre Explores Labor, Community in Award-Winning Drama SWEAT

The University Theatre presents Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning play SWEAT, which explores the lives of Rust Belt factory workers and the pressure of productivity.  
Performances are in the William Inge Memorial Theatre at Murphy Hall. SWEAT will play March 22, 23, 26, 27, and 28 at 7:30pm and March 24 at 2:30pm. Tickets are available for purchase at SWEAT, by calling 785-864-3982, or in-person at the box office in Murphy Hall Monday-Friday noon-5pm. 
SWEAT was based on research and dialogue that arose from Nottage embedding herself with the working-class community of Reading, Pennsylvania, exploring how marginalized people build community and how they respond when that community is divided against itself. At times the text allows the characters space to cut loose and have fun before returning to serious subjects, like job security, prejudice, and addiction, with globalization and neoliberalism as a backdrop.   
The production is directed by acclaimed playwright and KU Professor of English Darren Canady, who writes about the Black experience in the Midwest. His work has been produced at theatre companies across the country. 
"Man shown from torso up. He smiles widely and looks at the camera. Limestone wall background"SWEAT is really about labor in America and how it effects the ways a community relates to its members, how a community builds its sense of joy, and how the labor of that community also leads to its destruction,” he said. “It also asks ‘What makes me who I am?’ and ‘How do I make a meaningful life in a society that decides my value based on my productivity?’”   
The work confronts dehumanization as a byproduct of corporate greed and the dangers of defining a person’s value by their productivity. SWEAT has mature language and violence depicted on stage; it may not be appropriate for all audiences. 
Canady’s recent directing and dramaturgy work have been seen at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Helen Hocker Theatre, and Theatre Lawrence. His own plays have been seen at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, American Conservatory Theater, Sound Theatre Company, Aurora Theatre, the Alliance Theatre, Horizon Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Fremont Centre Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, the BE Company, American Blues Theater, KC Rep, and London’s Old Vic Theatre. He is an alum of Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, and the Juilliard School. Canady currently teaches playwriting at the University of Kansas. His participation in SWEAT is made possible in part by the LeWan Alexander Spiritship Fund. 
The creative team is rounded out by Rana Esfandiary, assistant professor in the Department, as scenic and costume designer; Elliot Bowman, a senior in theatre, math, and linguistics from Topeka, as lighting designer; Jane Barnette, associate professor in the Department, as dramaturg; Dan Heinz, a guest artist and freelance actor, director and fight director based in Lawrence, as fight director; and Connor L. Maloney, a junior in theatre design from Wichita, as stage manager. 
Cast members are ShonMichael Anderson, a sophomore in theatre performance from Wichita; Katelyn Arnold, a sophomore in theatre performance from Topeka; Alex Haynes, an actor, KU lecturer, and alum; Myles Hollie, a senior in theatre performance from Richmond, Virginia; Jordan Nevels, a senior in theater performance from Overland Park; Caleb Jonathan Parish, a senior in theatre performance; Nicole Piekalkiewicz, a senior in theatre performance from Lawrence; Sergio L. Román Alicea, a PhD student in theatre studies from San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Casey Schenk, a sophomore in theatre performance and math from Topeka.