The playwright Lynn Nottage’s work takes her far from the brownstone in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, where she grew up, and to which she returned in 1997. “Sweat,” which won a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2017, involved months of immersion among the embattled factory workers of Reading, Pa. Her new play, “Mlima’s Tale,” which will open at the Public Theater on April 15, follows the path of an ivory tusk from the savanna, where the title elephant is killed by poachers, through various traders to a high-end store in China. “The trail of the tusk is very long and circuitous,” Ms. Nottage, 53, said. She lives with her husband, Tony Gerber, 54, a documentary filmmaker, and their son, Melkamu, who is 9. Ruby Aiyo Gerber, their daughter, is a 20-year-old student at Brown University.
RISE AND CHAT I get up around 7:30. Usually my husband is the first person up. And my son is the last. I start the day chatting with my husband. When I get up he’s usually responding to email and launched into what’s happened. We talk about what we want for breakfast, and usually on Sundays he’ll cook pancakes and make eggs. We’ll eat breakfast, and if I’m in rehearsals I’ll rush off.
GIVE, THEN TAKE I have a ritual that I do at the end of the rehearsal process, on the evening of our first preview, which is essentially handing the play over to the actors and excusing myself from the process, and really allowing it to grow with them. And the very last day of the production I come and take it back. It’s very cathartic. It allows me a way to separate and to say, I’ve spent all these years researching and writing and developing this, and I have to let it go and let someone else be the caretaker of my words for a period of time. But I always say, I’m coming back for them when we’re finished.
EXILED I’ll go and see the performances when we’re in previews. Once it opens I return to my life. It’s always a little difficult because the rehearsal process is so intense and you’re forging bonds and making new friends and going very deep and intimate very quickly, and then you’re asked to remove yourself, while they continue to have that bond. You feel as though you’ve been exiled to an island.
R & R Sunday I try to rest. Monday is technically our day off, but it’s not a day off for my life, so it’s filled with all the things that I can’t do when I’m in rehearsal or previews, so it’s almost more busy. If I have more time, I try to catch up on some reading and research for some things I’m working on. And then my son has a full day with play dates and basketball. And then perhaps seeing friends in the evening, or I just go home and be with my family. Because I don’t get to see them when we’re doing the show, so that time becomes more precious.
HOME-COOKED MEAL We’ll have dinner together at home. One of us will cook, and my guess is that because I’ve been working all day, my husband will cook it.
FASHION VICTIM After dinner we’ve been watching “Planet Earth,” so we’ll watch an hour of that, and my son will go to bed. And my husband and I will watch an episode of some television show. We’ve been watching “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” which is incredibly dark and giving us nightmares.
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