Home is where the heart is, but it’s more complex than that.
Next week, UNCG Theatre mounts “Clybourne Park,” a play by Bruce Norris that transports us to the late 1950s, and then to 2009, in both settings taking on issues of race, identity and home. The story concerns the ownership and sale of a Chicago family property and the surrounding neighborhood’s tensions.
Norris’ play is known as a response piece to Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” which Triad Stage produced in February, with several UNCG students in the production and an alumnna and faculty playing important roles on the creative team. Although the two stories are not in perfect alignment, several characters and location details carry over to illustrate the potential future of the house and the families that live there.
“It was a perfect opportunity to present it in cooperation with Triad Stage’s production, so that those plays could talk to each other,” said director and graduate student Jennifer Lee Jellicorse. “A lot of our design process and certainly the manner in which we have approached ‘Clybourne Park’ is very much in response to ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ and in response to that specific production.”
“Clybourne Park” is a final Master’s of Fine Arts thesis production for Jellicorse as well as for Neila K. Ettienne, who plays a 1959 maid, Francine and for the section set in 2009, the matriarch and neighborhood association head, Lena.
“Lena is fearless 21st-century African American professional,” explained Ettienne. “She is not afraid to defend her history and the integrity of the neighborhood where she grew up.”
Since Ettienne has spent the majority of her life in the Caribbean, the play required her to research American history, particularly race issues.
“The play has raised many questions for me,” she revealed. “Such as, how does my character show her strength, how does she deal with deferred dreams and how much is she willing to sacrifice for family?”
“The play is about the preservation of community,” added Jellicorse. “And it forces us to examine why and how we engage in that preservation.”
“Clybourne Park” runs Wednesday, April 18 through Sunday, April 22 in Taylor Theatre. April 17 is a “pay what you can” preview. Tickets are available online through the Triad Stage Box Office or by calling (336) 272-0160.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications