Story told through two families moves
Clybourne Park starts out as a high-end Chicago neighborhood in Bruce Norris’ 2010 play.
It’s his response to Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” She wrote the play in 1959, which is the year Norris’ story opens in the house Hansberry’s characters, the Younger family, plans to buy.
The Younger family is black, and this move represents an opportunity for betterment. Clybourne Park is a white neighborhood, and neighborhood representative Karl Lindner is trying to block the move.
“He’s the only character from ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ that we see in ‘Clybourne Park,’” Femi Euba says. “He tries to talk the couple who owns the house out of selling it to a black family.”
Euba is directing Swine Palace’s production of Norris’ play, which opens with a pay-what-you-can performance on Wednesday in the Claude L. Shaver Theatre in the LSU Music & Dramatic Arts Building.
“Clybourne Park” made its Broadway debut on April 19, 2012, after winning the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It eventually would win the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play.
The play opens with a couple, Russ and Bev, who are selling their house to escape the neighborhood.
Billy Green plays Russ. Regular theater-goers will remember him as Willie Start in the company’s production of “All the King’s Men” last spring. Lara Grice plays Bev.
“Their son has committed suicide after returning from the Korean War,” Green says. “He’s upset with the community for shunning his son, and he’s ready to get out. He’s done with these people, and he’s ready to move to the suburbs.”
- Meanwhile, the thought terrifies Bev. Clybourne Park is her home, and if she doesn’t know everyone in the neighborhood, she’s at least familiar with them.
- “She doesn’t know anyone in the suburbs,” Grice says. “So, she starts hosting parties at their house and inviting people who she normally wouldn’t invite. She just wants to be around people.”
Grice is returning to Swine Palace after a 10-year absence. She lives in New Orleans, where she does both film and theater work.
“But when I received an email that said Swine Palace was casting this play, I immediately called George Judy,” Grice says. “This is a great company, and I wanted to get back to it.”
Both Grice and Green are Equity Actors, represented by the union. Actors from LSU Theatre’s Master of Fine Arts Program also have been cast.
Back to the story, it’s told in two acts. Clybourne Park is an upscale neighborhood in the 1959 segment, but it has undergone changes when act two opens in 2009.
- “A family is moving out in the first act, and in the second act, a family is moving in,” Euba says. “The neighborhood has gone down, and now it’s in another transformation. The play explores race, culture and class. It brings up so many issues, but the top one is race.”
- Euba has directed several Swine Palace productions that have dealt with these issues, the most recent being the 2011 production “The Brothers Size.”
“A play that deals with these things really challenges the director,” he says.
And “Clybourne Park” definitely has its challenges.
“Someone once said if you’re still talking about a play two blocks after leaving, then it’s an inspiring play,” Grice says. “I think this is that kind of play.”
- CAST: Billy Green, Russ/Dan; Lara Grice, Bev/Kathy; Ashley Adams, Francine/Lena; Tim Moriarty, Jim/Tom; Amar Atkinson, Albert/Kevin; Colton Neidhardt, Karl/Steve; Natalie Cardona, Betsy/Lindsey; Cory Crew, Kenneth.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Femi Euba, Director; Evleen Nasir, Assistant Director; Kenneth Ellis, Set Designer; James L. Murphy, Lighting Designer; Brandon McWilliams, Costume Designer; E.J. Cho, Sound Designer; Kate Brittingham, Props Master; Christopher Pyfrom, Technical Director, Paul Vella, Stage Manager.