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Black Women Playwrights | Teachers' Guide

Domestic Violence

Growing up on a crowded Brooklyn street, Lynn Nottage could not avoid knowing a lot about her neighbors' problems. Family secrets were out in the open, often literally. One afternoon, while she was in grade school, Nottage saw a man beating his wife in the middle of the street while neighbors watched from their stoops.

Later, after college and graduate school, she worked for Amnesty International and saw photographs of women from around the world, the bruised and broken faces of women who had suffered from domestic violence.

Both experiences contributed to the writing of her play, Poof! The photographs were the most immediate inspiration, shocking her with their imagery and bearing witness that domestic violence affects all races, nationalities and classes. The childhood memory hovered in the background, speaking to the everyday threat of domestic violence and the kind of hidden, strangely ordinary tragedy it causes.

Lynn Nottage saw Poof! as rooted in the African-American and Hispanic communities in which she grew up. But Poof! has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Welsh. It has been performed around the world. Audience reactions have been especially intense in Asia and Latin America.

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