‘Sweat’ to Start Free Election-Season Tour Across Midwest

Posted August 2, 2018 6:34 p.m. EDT

Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Sweat” will soon arrive in communities much like the one it depicts. The play, which explores the anxieties of the working class in Middle America, will embark on a free monthlong run through 18 cities this fall as part of the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit initiative.

“Sweat” takes place in the bar of a Pennsylvania factory town, where several generations grapple with plant closures, changing demographics and racial tensions. The play opened at the Public Theater in 2016 before transferring to Broadway the following year; it struggled at the box office but was critically lauded, earning three Tony nominations and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The play will now embark across the country through the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit, an initiative that stages free performances to underserved communities across New York City.

Oskar Eustis, the Public’s artistic director, described the effort in a statement as the theater’s “most dramatic attempt to break out of our New York bubble and speak to those who the nonprofit theater has largely ignored: the rural communities of the upper Midwest.”

In the weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, the tour will stop by 18 counties where the 2016 election was closely contested; all but four swung toward President Donald Trump.

The first performance is in Erie County, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 27. The tour then will go through Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota before ending in Sawyer County, Wisconsin, on Oct. 23.

But Eustis says the goal is not to support a specific political doctrine. “Our job isn’t to change anyone’s vote,” he said in an email. “It’s to open a dialogue and do our part to remind all Americans of what we have in common.”

Community workshops and art projects aimed at exploring local issues will be held alongside the performances.

The tour’s cast will include Carlo Albán, who played the role of Oscar both at the Public and on Broadway. Funding was provided by the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support coming from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

A full schedule can be found at thepublic.nyc/mobilenational.