College of Visual and Performing Arts Stories

Students Don 'Intimate Apparel' for JMU Play

Intimate Apparel

September 21, 2018 - James Madison University students in the School of Theatre and Dance will don corsets and period pieces to move through the world of Intimate Apparel, a play that “pierces the heart” (The Wall Street Journal) by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage. Intimate Apparel takes place Tuesday-Saturday, September 25-29 @ 8 pm and Sunday, September 30 @ 2 pm at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts.

The play, which addresses issues of class, culture and circumstance, is “sweet, melancholy, heartbreaking, and exquisitely structured,” says JMU faculty director Ingrid De Sanctis of Intimate Apparel, which won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Outer Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play in its Off-Broadway run in 2004. The first female playwright to win two Pulitzer Prizes, Nottage is “a rare, vital, important theatrical voice.” (The New York Times)

At the center of the story is Esther, a middle-aged African-American seamstress who sews “intimate apparel” for both wealthy and destitute clients while living at a boarding house for women in New York City in 1905. Financially independent, Esther dreams of opening her own beauty parlor one day—but mostly she longs for love.

Played by junior Zainab Barry, Esther moves across five different set locations where she establishes relationships with other characters through making corsets, according to De Sanctis. “Esther intersects with people in their most vulnerable state. It’s fascinating to see the difference in these relationships, and how they reveal so much about the American story, the African-American story, the story of women, and the story of dreams.”

On stage for nearly the entire production, Esther is part of a predominantly African-American cast of six that includes Jaylen Barnes (Mrs. Dickson), Grace Vaughan (Mrs. Van Buren), Hunter Clarke (Mr. Marks), J Travis Cooper (George Armstrong) and Sierra Orr (Mayme). Orr learned to play the piano for her role from vocal/piano coach Carson Eubanks ('17) and also served as a dialect coach along with her father for Jamaican Patois.

The artistic staff includes JMU students Dustyn Bain and Claire Whelen (assistant directors), Chad Gilliam (stage manager) and Maddie Kovach (dramaturg), faculty members Richard Finkelstein (scenic design) and Pamela Johnson (costume design), as well as guest lighting designer Gretta Daughtrey.

Tickets are $15-$16. For tickets, visit or call the Forbes Center Box Office at (540) 568-7000. 

Contains adult language, adult content and sexual content. INTIMATE APPAREL is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.


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Published: Friday, September 21, 2018

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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