Past: The Playwright as Activist: Lorraine Hansberry's Legacy

When: Monday, June 13, 2022, 6:30pm

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From left to right: Headshots of Lorraine Hansberry, Lynn Nottage, Erika Dickerson-Despenza, and Lisa Kron.
Left to right: Lorraine Hansberry, Lynn Nottage, Erika Dickerson-Despenza, Lisa Kron. Courtesy The Lillys, Photo by Lynn Savarese, Photo by Joey Stocks, Courtesy Lisa Kron.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage leads a discussion with fellow distinguished playwrights Erika Dickerson-Despenza and Lisa Kron about theater as a form of activism and the influence of playwright Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) on their work. The conversation accompanies the Museum's inaugural Freedom Week: A Journey into Art & Activism.

This program is co-presented by The Lillys as part of their Lorraine Hansberry Initiative.

About the Speakers:
Lynn Nottage is a playwright and a screenwriter, and the first woman in history to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. Recent work includes MJ (Broadway), the libretto for the opera Intimate Apparel (LCT), and Clyde’s (Broadway, 2ST), and co-curating the performance installation The Watering Hole (Signature Theater). Past work includes Sweat, Ruined, the musical adaptation of The Secret Life of BeesMlima's Tale, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Intimate Apparel, Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Las Meninas, Mud, River, Stone, Por’knockers and POOF!. She has also developed This is Reading, a performance installation in Reading, Pennsylvania. Ms. Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, among other awards, is an Associate Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Erika Dickerson-Despenza is a Blk, queer feminist poet-playwright and cultural-memory worker from Chicago, Illinois. Awards: Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (2021), Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award (2020), Thom Thomas Award (2020), Lilly Award (2020), Steinberg Playwright Award (2020), Barrie and Bernice Stavis Award (2020), Grist 50 Fixer (2020), Princess Grace Playwriting Award (2019). Residencies & Fellowships: Tow Playwright-in-Residence at The Public Theater (2019-2020), U.S. Water Alliance National Arts & Culture Delegate (2019), New York Stage and Film Fellow-in-Residence (2019), New Harmony Project Writer-in Residence (2019), Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow (2018-2019), The Lark Van Lier New Voices Fellow (2018). CULLUD WATTAH (2021); Victory Gardens Theater (2022); [HIEROGLYPH] (San Francisco Playhouse/Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 2021). 

Lisa Kron wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Fun Home which won five 2015 Tony awards including Best Book, Score, and Musical, and was finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Other plays include In The Wake, Well, and the Obie Award winning 2.5 Minute Ride. She received a Tony nomination for Best Actress in Well and a Lortel Award for her turn in Foundry Theater’s acclaimed production of Good Person of Szechuan. Guggenheim, Sundance and MacDowell fellowships, Doris Duke Performing Artists Award,  Cal Arts/Alpert Award, Kleban Prize. Founding member: OBIE- and Bessie-Award-winning collaborative theater company, The Five Lesbian Brothers.

About our Co-presenter:
The Lillys began in the Spring of 2010 as The Lilly Awards, an outlet to honor the work of women in the American theater. The founders are Julia Jordan, Marsha Norman, and Theresa Rebeck. The organization is named for Lillian Hellman, a pioneering American playwright who famously said “You need to write like the devil and act like one when necessary.”  In 2015, through a partnership with the Dramatists Guild, The Lillys conducted a national survey simply called The Count, proving that BIPOC women were by far the least represented demographic on our stages. The Lillys spread that information far and wide and have devoted the majority of their funds and efforts to women of color ever since. One hundred percent of their financial awards in directing, design, tech and composing, and the majority of their writing awards been given to women of color.

Event Logistics (subject to changed based on NYC regulations):

  • Proof of vaccination is required for entry to the event (everyone over the age of 5). Excelsior Pass is accepted for those who were vaccinated in NYS. 
  • Masks will be required.
  • Please contact with any questions or ticketing issues.
  • All sales are final; refunds not permitted. Exchanges and credit for future programs only. Programs and dates may be subject to change. The Museum of the City of New York reserves the right to refuse admission to latecomers and/or those who do not provide requested Covid-19 documentation. 



Activist New York and its associated programs are made possible by The Puffin Foundation, Ltd. 

This program is co-presented with The Lillys.

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