"Courageous… Norris' elegantly structured play nails marital tensions as much as it does racial disharmony" - The Guardian
Studio Theatre, Squires | Theatre
Bruce Norris' excruciatingly funny and squirm-inducing satire "Clybourne Park" explores the fault line between race and property in two outrageous acts set fifty years apart. Act One takes place in 1959, as white community leaders anxiously try to stop the sale of a home to a black family. Act Two is set in the same house in the present day, as the now predominantly African-American neighborhood battles to hold its ground in the face of gentrification. Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play. Directed by Susanna Rinehart.
"Clybourne Park" is presented as part of a university-wide conversation about race and the intersectionality of the human experience. In conjunction with "Clybourne Park," join us for free screenings of "A Raisin in the Sun," the 1961 film based on Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play of the same name. Made possible with support from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
I have wanted us to produce Clybourne Park since it was first published five years ago—before it was on Broadway, and won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. And, as so often happens, it turns out that now could not be a more relevant and resonant moment for this play. Intersectionality. Race. Class. Gender. Gentrification. Privilege. The struggle for racial, social, economic and housing justice. Sound familiar? Bruce Norris wrote this play in the wake of the historic election and inauguration of our first black president. We are doing it now in the twilight of Barack Obama’s presidency, three days after the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., and on the eve of yet another historic presidential election.
In 1959, Lorraine Hansberry’s visionary and courageous play A Raisin in the Sun made history as the first drama by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. She was 29 years old, and became the first black playwright, the fifth woman, and the youngest American playwright ever to win the NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. She placed at the center of her family drama the intersecting forces of race, class, and gender. And so much of what her characters expressed was prescient:
“… people can get awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened.” (Karl Lintner, in A Raisin in the Sun)
“But I will teach and work and things will happen, slowly and swiftly. At times it will see that nothing changes at all… and then again the sudden dramatic events which make history leap into the future. And then quiet again. Retrogression even. Guns, murder, revolution. And I will even have moments when I wonder if the quiet was not better than all that death and hatred. But I will look about my village at the illiteracy and disease and ignorance and I will not wonder long.” (Joseph Asagai, in A Raisin in the Sun)
She was exploring what she knew: when her own family moved into a white neighborhood, 8-year-old Hansberry and her sister ran inside as their house was surrounded by a white mob, bricks thrown through their windows as they retreated. “Who knows which part had the greatest impact on the child—the brick? the mother sitting up nights with a gun? the incidents to and from school? the father away in Washington? the fact that the cops did not defend the home but that blacks had to come from outside to do so? the fact that the family was then evicted by the Supreme Court of Illinois?” wondered her husband many years later, after her death of pancreatic cancer at the age of 34.
Sixty-five years ago, in 1951, Langton Hughes wrote the poem “Harlem”, from which Hansberry took the title of her play:
“What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun? / Or fester like a sore – / And then run? / Does it stink like rotten meat / Or crust and sugar over – / Like a syrupy sweet? / Maybe it just sags / Like a heavy load. / Or does it explode?”
Good question. We are living the questions and the answers. This play is part of the necessary conversation. Welcome! - Susanna Rinehart
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