Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
(Faber and Faber, 2011, 210 pages)
Today was the first Between the Covers book club discussion for the Fall 2015 semester and Clybourne Park was the title we talked about. This was the first time Between the Covers read a play and it made for a unique reading experience. Like most people, the only real experience I have with reading plays is in the classroom setting. It’s not a genre I think people frequently pick up because, by it’s very nature, a play is meant to be seen as a performance. That being said, I still enjoyed the experience of reading this piece by Norris.
Clybourne Park is something of a follow-up to Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun. The play is set in two acts and each act is set at a specific time. Act 1 is set in 1959 and Act 2 takes place in 2009. Act 1 is set in the home of a couple who is getting ready to move and whose house has been sold (unbeknownst to them) to a black family – the first one in the Clybourne Park neighborhood. This brings up some issues with members in their community who don’t want to see this “change” in the neighborhood take place.
Act 2 is set in the same home 50 years later and it becomes clear that the demographics of the neighborhood have changed. Clybourne Park is now predominantly black. There is a white couple looking at purchasing the original house, tearing it down, and building a new one in its place. This brings a new set of issues that still follow racial lines – now what’s at play is the beginnings of gentrifying the neighborhood.
Clybourne Park brought up a lot of issues that I think would make for some great discussions. While it dealt with serious topics, there were still moments of humor and a few times when my jaw dropped. The play won the Pulitzer Prize as well as a Tony Award. If you haven’t read a play before (or since you were a student somewhere) I recommend giving it a shot and seeing how you feel about it. Some people find it harder to get into, but I felt like it lent a different sense of immediacy to my reading experience. I enjoyed it.
I’d definitely recommend going to see the Center Stage performance on campus. They’ll be performing the play September 30-October 4. Tickets are free for SCC students with an ID!