Starting to Sweat for Sweat: Cast and Crew Begin the Process with a Meet and Greet

By A.C.T. Publications Staff

Director Loretta Greco explains her vision at the meet and greet for Sweat. Behind her is Elisa Guthertz (stage manager),
in front are Karina Fox (assistant director) and Ulises Alcala (costume designer). Photo by Elspeth Sweatman.

Last Monday, A.C.T. took an exciting first step for the first production of our 2018–19 season: the meet and greet for Sweat. For the first time, the cast, director, and creative team gathered in the same room to celebrate the work about to begin. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon and Director Loretta Greco articulated their vision for the script, and designers explained their plan to manifest that onstage.

Set in Reading, Pennsylvania, Sweat depicts the unraveling of a small-town community built around a single steel company. In the wake of the 2008 depression, many steelworkers were laid off, and the effects were devastating on both a corporate and a human level. “The play asks how a small American city can go from being a beacon of economic prosperity to a place where 41 percent live below the poverty line,” said MacKinnon. “That’s a big, messy social science question. But it’s also a question for theater.”

Playwright Lynn Nottage spent many months in Reading, getting to know real, working-class people affected by the collapse of the steel industry, enabling her to infuse these characters with deep humanity. It was the honesty of their experience that drew Greco to the script. “Part of the American Dream is that we work hard and we’re rewarded,” says Greco. “You work hard, you show up every day, you give it your all. And the real reward is that your kids will get to live better than you. These are the first couple of generations where we see that isn’t the case.”

Sweat has accumulated an impressive collection of accolades—a Pulitzer Prize, an Obie Award, a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Tony Nomination, and a Drama Desk Nomination—proving its current cultural relevance. “Lynn has written a play that does what we hope theater will always do,” says Greco. “It will alter us a little bit. It will stretch us a little bit, and we will walk out of the theater a little bit different than how we came in.”

If you want to hear more about Greco’s vision, look out for the extended interview with the director in Words on Plays, available for purchase later this week. And if you want to experience the realized vision, purchase tickets for Sweat here.

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