Prof. Renata Ferdinand, Coordinator of the Literature Roundtable, has just announced the reading for next semester. It’s Intimate Apparel, a play by Brooklyn-based author Lynn Nottage. You can purchase the play, or read it as an ebook from our college library.
Want to know a little about the play before you read it? Prof. Ferdinand shared this information about it:
CRITICAL REACTION: INTIMATE APPAREL is the winner of the 2004 New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play.
“This haunting and hilarious play is the most fulfilling event of the season.” – New York Post
“The language of Intimate Apparel is a thing of beauty, at times approaching poetry…The play is a story about citizens grabbing for the same crust of bread, occasionally pulling nourishment from one another’s mouths. It is a parable about sweet dreams and honeyed words that, in an instant, can turn sour.” —Los Angeles Times
THE STORY: The time is 1905, the place New York City, where Esther, a black seamstress, lives in a boarding house for women and sews intimate apparel for clients who range from wealthy white patrons to prostitutes. Her skills and discretion are much in demand, and she has managed to stuff a goodly sum of money into her quilt over the years. One by one, the other denizens of the boarding house marry and move away, but Esther remains, lonely and longing for a husband and a future. Her plan is to find the right man and use the money she’s saved to open a beauty parlor where black women will be treated as royally as the white women she sews for. By way of a mutual acquaintance, she begins to receive beautiful letters from a lonesome Caribbean man named George who is working on the Panama Canal. Being illiterate, Esther has one of her patrons respond to the letters, and over time the correspondence becomes increasingly intimate until George persuades her that they should marry, sight unseen. Meanwhile, Esther’s heart seems to lie with the Hasidic shopkeeper from whom she buys cloth, and his heart with her, but the impossibility of the match is obvious to them both, and Esther consents to marry George. When George arrives in New York, however, he turns out not to be the man his letters painted him to be, and he absconds with Esther’s savings, frittering it away on whores and liquor. Deeply wounded by the betrayal, but somehow unbroken, Esther returns to the boarding house determined to use her gifted hands and her sewing machine to refashion her dreams and make them anew from the whole cloth of her life’s experiences.
* * *
The date for the roundtable hasn’t been announced yet, but Prof. Ferdinand is planning to have the event coincide with Women’s History Month, so expect it to be in March.