Lynn Nottage: When we were initially conceiving of Sweat, myself and my collaborator Kate Whoriskey, we always wanted to figure out a way not only to bring the play back to the people in Reading, Pennsylvania, but to take it to folks who might be very much in dialogue with the issues that were happening on the stage. So we, along with Oregon Shakespeare Festival, raised some money from the very inception to take the play outside of the proscenium and take it into communities.
When we moved the show to the Public Theater, we deliberately selected that theater because the artistic director, Oskar Eustis, was very aligned with what we wanted to do with the show. We had originally planned to take it to Reading, Pennsylvania and then tour it through the prison system, but the prison system would not let us in.
So after we took it to Reading, we wanted to figure out a way to keep what we experienced with that audience in Reading, Pennsylvania alive, and we came up with this notion of touring Sweat through the Rust Belt, specifically in small towns that were swing towns and voted for Obama and then voted for Trump. We wanted to go to places where we thought we could have a dialogue. We didn’t want to just go red or blue; we wanted to go to purple, those places where, we thought, after the play is done we can actually talk about some of these issues.