The play “Intimate Apparel” is set in 1905 and tells the story of Esther, a 30-year-old African American seamstress trying to realize her dreams in New York City.
Lynn Nottage won a Pulitzer Prize for writing this play, which is currently on stage at Lionheart Theatre in Norcross.
Director Myrna Feldman and lead actor Jessica Briana Kelly discussed the show on “City Lights.”
Esther has a range of clients from wealthy white patrons to prostitutes. Her discretion and skillful sewing techniques enable her to have repeat customers.
“The wealthy woman on Fifth Avenue wants to have corsets, the same corsets that she [Esther] makes for the prostitute. The prostitute wants to look like a wealthy woman on Fifth Avenue,” Feldman said. “So she ends up making them the same exact garment, and they are both thrilled with it.”
The theme of wanting what the other person has is woven throughout the play.
Tony Award-winner Viola Davis played the role of Esther in the play’s 2004 Off-Broadway premiere. When Kelly was preparing for the same role, she wanted to make Davis proud of her portrayal.
“When preparing for this role, I wanted to showcase myself in the role. I know a lot of times with acting, you try to pile all of these characteristics, but I really wanted to strip everything down and just present myself in how I would be if all of these things were happening to me,” Kelly said. “I feel like the key to this role was to just settle down and be myself in it.”
The final dates of the show are Nov. 15, 16 and 17.
This story was originally published with audio on WABE.org.