‘Clybourne Park’: Uncomfortably Funny
Allie Tollaksen | Wednesday, February 19, 2014
This evening, the Notre Dame Department of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) will premiere the acclaimed play “Clybourne Park.”
Written by Bruce Norris and originally debuted in 2010, “Clybourne Park” builds off of Lorraine Hansberry’s revolutionary Broadway play “A Raisin in the Sun.” Hansberry’s play premiered in 1959 and centers around the experiences of a black family as they move into an all-white subdivision of a Chicago neighborhood. “A Raisin in the Sun” became the first play written by a black woman to premiere on Broadway.
In “Clybourne Park,” Norris expands on Hansberry’s plot, telling it from the perspective of the white family selling the house and including events that occur before and after those in “A Raisin in the Sun.”
The second act, for example, takes place 50 years later in the same house and continues Hansberry’s examination of the relationship between race and housing.
Exploring themes of race, gentrification and community from the time of Lansberry’s original play until now, Norris won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Clybourne Park.”
Although the play’s themes are serious, it doesn’t shy away from humor. The play is a dark comedy that offers plenty of laughs while still managing to call attention to its important themes.
“Audiences across the country have found the show hilariously funny,” director Grant Mudge said in the play’s press release, “but uncomfortably so.” He points out that the play’s dark comedy highlights serious questions about race and gentrification.
The play was chosen and produced by FTT not only because of its great writing and important themes, but also for its relevance to the experiences of many within this community.
“When the play first came up among the faculty,” Director of Theatre Kevin Dreyer said, “Many of us felt a personal connection to its story of neighborhood decay and restoration — and the accompanying racial tensions.
“We also saw an opportunity to do a show that could be of special interest in our surrounding community, as we see in the news regularly how South Bend leaders are engaged in ongoing efforts toward community revitalization.”
Because of the play’s examination of pertinent issues and relevance to the South Bend community, the FTT department will also be hosting a panel discussion, called “Some change is inevitable: A Conversation about Revitalization and Gentrification in South Bend Neighborhoods,” on Sunday, Feb. 3 at 5:00 p.m.
Following the play’s 2:30 p.m. matinee, Jackie Rucker of Notre Dame’s Associate Director of Community Relations will moderate the panel.
Panel speakers include Jeff Gibney, founder and Director of Planning and Development at the South Bend Heritage Foundation, Bernice Freeman, neighborhood advocate for equity in housing and former member of CASH Plus (Community Action for South Bend Housing) and Marguerite Taylor, board member, Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization and officer of the North East Neighborhood Council.
The panel will discuss many of the issues raised by Norris and Hansberry regarding gentrification, community revitalization and race relations and specifically how they pertain to the South Bend community.
It will be free and open to the public, no ticket required. The panel will undoubtedly be a compelling companion to the FTT production.
“It’s healthy to find relief in laughter,” Mudge said, “but ultimately our task is to ensure that the play provokes an honest and productive conversation.”
The play debuts this evening at 7:30 p.m. and will run until Sunday, March 2 in the in the Philbin Studio Theatre of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC). Tickets are $15 for the public, $12 for seniors, faculty and staff and $7 for students. Times and tickets are available online, by phone or at the DPAC ticket office.