Esther is an African-American seamstress in early 20th century New York. Her specialty is creating lingerie for both the ladies of the night and the women of high society. While she carefully crafts sexy, romantic garments for others, she cannot “sew” the seeds of love for herself. Her loneliness is replaced by optimism when romantic letters from a mysterious stranger begin arriving. As Esther eagerly ponders the source of these notes, she might be overlooking a love that is both true and real.
Audiences will meet Esther during the University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance production of Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel.” Performances run Feb. 19 – 28 in UH’s Jose Quintero Theatre (Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts). Show times and dates are as follows:
- 8 p.m. – Feb. 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27
- 2 p.m. – Feb. 21, 28
Tickets are $10 and $20. They can be purchased online or by calling the UH School of Theatre & Dance box office at 713-743-2929.
“Intimate Apparel” premiered in 2003 at Center Stage in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2004, the play opened Off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre with Viola Davis in the role of Esther. This production earned several awards, including Drama Desk and Obie acting honors for Davis.
“’Intimate Apparel’ grew out of Lynn cleaning out her mother's house and coming across old photographs,” said the play’s director, Sara Becker, associate professor of Voice and Shakespeare. “She dug into historical research and became really interested in telling the story of people that are often anonymous. There's a great truth in art that the more specific and small a detail is, the more universal it becomes. This play invites us into the world of a quiet, diligent black woman in 1905, someone you may not notice as they walk into any room, but her journey hits all of us on a gut level.”
Cast members include Precious Merenu as Mrs. Dickson, Constance Swain as Mayme, Kenn Hopkins as George, Joshua Clark as Mr. Marks, and Merritt Weirick as Van Buren. Recent graduate Shunte Loftin returns to UH to take on the role of Esther.
“I've been in love with this play for a long time,” Becker said. “It's one of those plays that you don't dare do until you have the right actors. This, after all, is the play that put Viola Davis on the map! We missed Bachelor of Fine Arts grad Shunte Loftin by a year. She graduated in 2015, but we brought her back as a guest artist because we knew we could make a dream team of a cast for this play. I think audiences are going to be blown away by this entire ensemble of very gifted actors.”