Yale School of Drama playwriting lecturer Lynn Nottage DRA ’89 won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play “Ruined,” the story of a Congolese bar and brothel.
“Ruined” beat out finalists “Becky Shaw,” a comedy about romantic relationships, by Gina Gionfriddo and “In the Heights,” a musical about Washington Heights, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes ’99.
The story of “Ruined” focuses on the character Mama Nadi, who runs the brothel, the women who work for her and how the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has influenced them.
“I wanted to tell the story of these women and the war in the Congo and I couldn’t find anything about them in the newspapers or in the library, so I felt I had to get on a plane and go to Africa and find the story myself,” Nottage said. “I felt there was a complete absence in the media of their narrative. It’s very different now, but when I went in 2004 that was definitely the case.”
To create the narrative, Nottage conducted interviews with Congolese women, using their stories to help build her own.
“I think of Mama Nadi as being the ultimate businesswoman. She’s a survivor,” the playwright said. “She is a negotiator. She uses her wit and her wiles to survive a very difficult conflict.”
In his New York Times review of the play, Ben Brantley wrote that “a raw and genuine agony pulses within and finally burst through this sturdy framework, giving ‘Ruined’ an impact that lingers beyond its well-shaped, sentimental ending.”
The play, which opened in February at City Center Stage One in Manhattan, has been extended to run through May 10. “Ruined” is a co-production between the Manhattan Theatre Club and the Goodman Theatre. It premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago during the fall of 2008.
Nottage won the 2003-2004 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play among other awards for “Intimate Apparel.” She is also known for her work “Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine.” Nottage was a 2007 MacArthur Fellow.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.