How do you get real plays about real social issues?

You commission a real playwright who knows what she’s doing and is committed to the material.

It looks like that’s just what the Joyce Foundation in the Twin Cities has done. They’ve given out two awards for $50,000, and one goes to Lynn Nottage, one of America’s great living playwrights.

Nottage, who won a Pulitzer for RUINED, a story about women living through war in the Congo (which was given a soaring, unforgettable production at OSF in 2010), is working on a new play about Reading, PA, currently ranked as the poorest city in the US. Similar to her approach for RUINED, to prepare for which the playwright and director Kate Whoriskey traveled to Africa to interview rape survivors, Nottage has interviewed residents in Reading.

You can bet she’ll give us something interesting and well worth our time.

Unfortunately, over on the other end of the gravitas scale, Portland is just about to see an example of what happens when you try to make slapstick farce out of serious social content.