Playwright Bruce Norris’ award-winning comedic drama “Clybourne Park” opens the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts’ 2016–2017 Mainstage Theatre series on September 27. The show will run for 10 performances through October 6 in Squires Studio Theatre.
“Clybourne Park” was written in 2010 and inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play “A Raisin in the Sun.” Both plays are set in Chicago and share similar themes, with “Clybourne Park” weaving its way in and around events connected to Hansberry’s work.
Presented in two acts set 50 years apart, “Clybourne Park” explores the fault line between race and property. 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 2009 in the same house, as the now predominantly African-American neighborhood battles to hold its ground in the face of gentrification.
The cast of seven students each plays more than one character in the show. Woody Chapman, of Richmond, Virginia, a senior majoring in theatre with a cinema focus, believes that the play holds a relevant message for today’s audience.
“It poses a lot of questions and leaves the audience responsible for answering those questions themselves,” he said.
Another senior majoring in theatre, Naire Poole, from Norfolk, Virginia, said, “I feel that the issues of race relations and gentrification, particularly in the second act, hold such a gravity and relevance to the lives a lot of people are living right now. Everyone could easily look at a character and say they’ve been there, or they are there.”
The play’s director, Susanna Rinehart, an associate professor of performance, said, “I have been wanting to do this play at Virginia Tech for awhile, but cannot imagine producing it at a more timely moment. The play’s smart, funny, and searing examination of the intersection of race, class, and gender through the matrix of gentrification – and its hilarious sendup of political correctness – could not be more topical if it had been written yesterday. To be sharing this piece with our community one month before the 2016 presidential elections is perfection.”
Norris, an American actor and playwright associated with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago, received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play for “Clybourne Park.” The Pulitzer Prize committee citation described the play as “a powerful work whose memorable characters speak in witty and perceptive ways to America’s sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness.”
Performances of “Clybourne Park” are September 27–30 at 7:30 p.m., October 2 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and October 3–6 at 7:30 p.m.
All performances are in the Squires Studio Theatre, located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Ave. on the Virginia Tech campus.
“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” performances, free showings of “A Raisin in the Sun” will be presented Sept. 25 at the Lyric Theatre and Oct. 1 at Squires Haymarket Theatre. Both screenings are at 7 p.m. and are co-supported by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Tickets are $12 general and $10 for seniors and students and may be purchased online. Tickets may also be purchased at the Squires Centers and Activities Ticket Office on the first floor of Squires Student Center or by calling 540-231-5615. Tickets will be available at the Squires ticket office beginning one hour prior to the performance.
Written by Susan Sanders