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'Clybourne Park' shines spotlight on disparities

September 17, 2015

The Stephens College Playhouse Theatre Company this month presents “Clybourne Park,” a story about how gentrification and white flight impacts individual families of all races.

The play, written in 2010 by Bruce Norris, essentially picks up where “A Raisin in the Sun”—a groundbreaking play about a lower-class black family struggling to gain middle-class acceptance—leaves off.

“Clybourne Park” begins in 1959 when the main characters, who are black, are preparing to purchase a home in an all-white neighborhood. White neighbors unsuccessfully try to stop the sale.

Fast-forward 50 years. In the second scene, set in 2009, Clybourne Park is now an all-black neighborhood, and residents must decide whether they are willing to allow a white couple to move in and build a new home. Discussions about housing codes quickly turn to questions of racial issues and perceived political correctness.

It’s clear underlying issues have not changed, although roles have been reversed.

And the story is as timely today as ever, guest director Linda Kennedy said.

“During these times, people try to be so politically correct,” she said. “When you try to pretend something doesn’t exist when it clearly does, you end up putting your foot in your mouth.”

She hopes the play shows that people are more alike than unalike, although on different levels in society.

She also expects the story to shine a spotlight on systematic failures that keep certain people from having the ability to get ahead.

“It’s not just about race, it’s about politicians using territory to control people no matter what race they are,” she said.

Kennedy wants students actors to get as much out of the message as audience members.

“I hope students learn that it’s OK to disagree,” she said. “You can agree to disagree. We’re all part of the human family.”

Clybourne Park begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Sept. 26, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Sept. 27. Tickets.

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