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The Root Interview: Lynn Nottage on ‘Ruined’ Beauty

Our talk about her prize-winning play on sexual violence and war kicks off Women's History Month.

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Lynn Nottage: I was really excited to bring this to the seat of power because the audience will be in a position to bring about some kind of change in the Congo. One of the things we saw when we staged it in New York City is that we were very successful in bringing human rights organizations and NGOs and bodies like the United Nations in to see the play—and we found that lot of those folks were moved to act.

TR: This is not quite historical fiction—but is grounded in history and in fact. How did that inform your creative process?

LN: This play is not history. It’s a contemporary play, so the events that occur on the stage are events that are currently going on in countrysides in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. So in that respect it was different from other plays I have done, which were set at the beginning of the 20th century, or the late 1600s or 1700s. This play is very much of the moment and dealing with contemporary issues. When I was in the process of writing the play, it took on a greater urgency—I felt really compelled to write more quickly because I wanted to have a conversation with an audience who may not necessarily know what was going on, or who does know what is going on but didn’t feel compelled to act.

TR: Did you travel to Eastern Congo for your research?