Clybourne Park

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Clybourne Park
Clybourne Park.jpg
Written by Bruce Norris
Date premiered February 1, 2010 (2010-02-01)
Place premiered Playwrights Horizons
New York City
Original language English
Subject Response to A Raisin in the Sun
Genre Drama

Clybourne Park (2010) is a play by Bruce Norris written as a spin-off to Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun (1959). It portrays fictional events set before and after the Hansberry play, and is loosely based on historical events that took place in the city of Chicago. It premiered in February 2010 at Playwrights Horizons in New York.[1] The play received its UK premiere at the Royal Court Theatre in London in a production directed by Dominic Cooke. The play received its Chicago premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in a production directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Amy Morton.[2] As described by the Washington Post, the play "applies a modern twist to the issues of race and housing and aspirations for a better life."[3] Clybourne Park was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play.


Act I: 1959[edit]

Grieving parents Bev and Russ are planning to sell their home in the white middle-class Chicago neighborhood of Clybourne Park. They receive a visit from their local clergyman, Jim, as well as their neighbor Karl and his deaf, pregnant wife Betsy. Karl informs them that the family buying their house is black, and pleads with Russ to back out of the deal, for fear that area property values will fall if black residents move in. It becomes apparent that the black family moving in are the Youngers, the protagonists of A Raisin in the Sun, and the neighbor is Karl Lindner, the minor character from that play who attempted to bribe the Youngers into abandoning their plans to move into the neighborhood. The action is taking place approximately an hour following Karl Lindner's departure from the Younger's Hamilton Park residence, where they have rejected his bribery attempt. As arguments ensue about the potential problems of integrating the neighborhood, both couples awkwardly call on Russ and Bev's black housekeeper and her husband to express their opposing views. Russ finally snaps and throws everyone out of the house, saying he no longer cares about his neighbors after their community's shunning his son Kenneth when he returned home from the Korean War, which contributed to Kenneth's suicide, which occurred inside the house.

Act II: 2009[edit]

Set in the same home as Act I, the same actors reappear playing different characters. In the intervening fifty years, Clybourne Park has become an all-black neighborhood, which is now gentrifying. A white couple, Steve and Lindsay (played by the same actors who played Karl and Betsy in Act I), are seeking to buy, raze and rebuild the house at a larger scale, and are being forced to negotiate with local housing regulations with a black couple, Kevin and Lena (played by the same actors as Francine and Albert), who represent the housing board. Lena is related to the Younger family (and named after matriarch Lena Younger), and is unwilling to have the house torn down. Steve and Lindsay's lawyer, Kathy (played by Bev) is revealed to be the daughter of Karl and his deaf wife, Betsy, and mentions that her family moved out of the neighborhood around the time of her birth. A cordial discussion of housing codes soon degenerates into one of racial issues, instigated by a concerned Steve, who feels that the mask of "political correctness" is allowing for a more subtle kind of prejudice against them. The alternating disgust and dismissal that follows reveals resentments from both parties, and several awkward comments lead to Steve being goaded into telling a racist, homophobic joke that offends both Kevin and the other lawyer, Tom (played by Jim), who is gay. The discussion is interrupted several times by Frank (played by Russ), a workman who has found Kenneth's army trunk buried in the back yard. As fighting erupts and the two couples turn on each other and themselves, Frank opens the trunk and finds Kenneth's suicide note.

In a short coda, we see Bev back in 1957, catching her son awake late at night, dressed in his army uniform. He claims to be dressing for a job interview, though it is clear that he is in the act of writing his suicide note. Leaving him to tend to the house, Bev observes that "I really believe things are about to change for the better."

Historical context[edit]

Hansberry's parents bought a house in the white neighborhood of Washington Park, an action that resulted in a legal case (Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32 (1940)).[4] The Hansberry family home, a red brick three-floor at 6140 S. Rhodes, which they bought in 1937, is up for landmark status before the Chicago City Council's Committee on Historical Landmarks Preservation.[5]


The play premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on February 21, 2010 and closed on March 21, 2010. Directed by Pam MacKinnon, the cast featured Frank Wood, Annie Parisse, Jeremy Shamos, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, and Christina Kirk.[1]

The play premiered in the UK in August 2010 at the Royal Court Theatre in London directed by Dominic Cooke, artistic director of the theatre, and starring Sophie Thompson, Martin Freeman, Lorna Brown, Sarah Goldberg, Michael Goldsmith, Lucian Msamati, Sam Spruell and Steffan Rhodri.[6] It transferred to Wyndham's Theatre in the West End with most of the original cast, with the exceptions of Martin Freeman, who was replaced by Stephen Campbell Moore; and Steffan Rhodri, who was replaced by Stuart McQuarrie.[7]

Even before the play premiered on Broadway, it had several notable productions in regional theatres: The Caldwell Theatre Company (Boca Raton, Florida) staged it in January 2011, with Clive Cholerton directing and starring Gregg Weiner, Karen Stephens, Brian D. Coats, Kenneth Kay, Patti Gardner, Cliff Burgess, and Margery Lowe. The play's Chicago premiere took place in September 2011 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company,[8] directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Amy Morton and featuring ensemble member James Vincent Meredith along with Karen Aldridge, Cliff Chamberlain, Stephanie Childers, Kirsten Fitzgerald, John Judd, and Brendan Marshall-Rashid; the production closed in November 2011.[9][10][11]

In October/November 2011, the play was in residence with the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, with Brian Mertes directing and starring Mauro Hantman, Rachael Warren, Mia Ellis, Anne Scurria, Timothy Crowe, Tommy Dickie, and Joe Wilson Jr.[12] From January to March 2012, the play ran at Arden Theatre Company in Old City, Philadelphia, directed by Ed Sobel and starring David Ingram, Julia Gibson, Erika Rose, Steve Pacek, Josh Tower, Ian Merrill Peakes, and Maggie Lakis. The Philadelphia Inqurier claimed, "A remarkably skillful cast directed by Edward Sobel creates characters that flirt with stereotypes, but become real and believable...This is a bitter satire that makes us laugh while it indicts us."[13]

The play opened on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre on April 19, 2012 (in previews starting March 26, 2012) for a 16-week limited engagement. The Off-Broadway cast reprised their roles.[14][15] The play was nominated for several Tony Awards, and won the one for Best Play.[16]

In 2013, the play was staged at the Guthrie Theatre (May to June 2013),[17] in rotating repertory with A Raisin in the Sun at the Dallas Theater Center,[18] and in rotating repertory with Kwame Kwei-Armah's Beneatha's Place at Center Stage in Maryland.[19]

Beneatha's Place was inspired by and a response to both A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park and features characters that appear in both of those plays, even though the three plays present different stories and themes. According to press notes: "'Beneatha's Place' continues the conversation that began in Clybourne Park" and, according to Playbill, was "inspired by A Raisin in the Sun."[20] According to Variety: Kwei-Armah "borrows from both 'Raisin' and 'Clybourne'... From Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play he’s taken two characters, the feisty daughter Beneatha Younger and her Nigerian student boyfriend, Joseph Asagai. From “Clybourne,” he’s appropriated scribe Bruce Norris’ principal device, a focus on the action at a single home on two occasions 50 years apart."[21]

The play had several productions in 2014: in January at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre,[22] in February 2014, at the Wichita Center for the Arts in Wichita, Kansas,[23] and in September as the season opener for the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Florida.[24] Also, the play's Australian premiere took place in March at the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney; the run was scheduled for five weeks, but sold out before opening night and was subsequently extended at another location. [25]

Awards and nominations[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Clybourne Park, With Wood, Parisse, Shamos and More, Begins NYC World Premiere". Playbill. Retrieved 2011-04-19. 
  2. ^ Thompson, Zac. “Clybourne Park gets its Chicago premiere”, Chicago Reader, September 22, 2011; retrieved September 3, 2013.
  3. ^ "Peter Marks's theater picks for the spring". Washington Post. 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2011-04-19. 
  4. ^ Brantley, Ben, "Good Defenses Make Good Neighbors", The New York Times, February 22, 2010.
  5. ^ Ihejirika, Maudlyne (February 5, 2010). "'Raisin in the Sun' home for landmark?". The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Cultural Exposé - A site for hip + arty urban adventurers". Tumblr. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Clybourne Park in the West End". Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  8. ^ Clybourne Park Steppenwolf Theatre Company
  9. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Steppenwolf Season to Feature John Mahoney, William Petersen, Tracy Letts, Premiere of 'The March'" Playbill, March 2, 2011
  10. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Amy Morton Will Direct Steppenwolf's 'Clybourne Park'; Casting Announced" Playbill, June 17, 2011
  11. ^ Zacher, Scotty. "Review. 'Clybourne Park' (Steppenwolf Theatre", September 21, 2011
  12. ^ Hetrick, Adam."'Clybourne Park' Opens at Trinity Repertory Company Oct. 19",, October 19, 2011.
  13. ^ Toby Zinman, "'Clybourne Park': Guilt and hypocrisy in a racially changing neighborhood", The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 3, 2012.
  14. ^ Kenneth Jones (March 26, 2012). "'Clybourne Park', the Pulitzer Winner About Race and Real Estate, Makes Broadway Debut". Playbill. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  15. ^ Kenneth Jones (April 19, 2012). "'Clybourne Park', the Funny-Tragic Pulitzer Winner About Race and Real Estate, Opens on Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  16. ^ Gans, Andrew (2012-06-10). "Broadway's Big Night! Neil Patrick Harris Hosts 66th Annual Tony Awards June 10". Playbill. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  17. ^ "Play Guide, Clybourne Park'", accessed November 8, 2015
  18. ^ Dallas Theater Center
  19. ^ Center Stage: The Raisin Cycle,; accessed September 6, 2015.
  20. ^ Purcell, Carey. "'Beneatha's Place', Part of Centerstage's The Raisin Cycle, Begins Performances May 8" Playbill, May 8, 2013
  21. ^ Harris, Paul."Review. 'Beneatha's Place'" Variety, May 28, 2013
  22. ^ Clybourne Park at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre,; accessed September 6, 2015.
  23. ^ WCFTA Theatre
  24. ^ Hippodrome Theatre Mainstage: Current Shows; accessed September 5, 2014.
  25. ^ "What's On",; accessed September 6, 2015.
  26. ^ Ray Bennett (March 13, 2011). "Olivier Awards 2011: 'Legally Blonde', Stephen Sondheim Dominate". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  27. ^ "2011 Pulitzer Prizes for Letters, Drama and Music". The New York Times. April 19, 2011. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  28. ^ Kenneth Jones (January 25, 2011). "Clybourne Park, Matilda and Suchet Honored in London's Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". Playbill. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  29. ^ Spencer, Charles (November 29, 2010). "Evening Standard Theatre Awards: a year to be proud of". The Telegraph. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  30. ^ "South Bank Sky Arts Awards: The Winners". Sky Arts. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

Norris, Bruce (2010). Clybourne Park. London: Nick Hern Books. p. 96. ISBN 1848421788. 

External links[edit]