Jennifer Jellicorse, director of UNCG’s new theatre production “Clybourne Park,” recently discussed the storyline of the play in relation to the Triad Stage performance of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” “Clybourne Park,” originally a Broadway play, is writer Bruce Norris’ reaction to “A Raisin in the Sun,” which succeeds Norris’ work by approximately 50 years.
“A Raisin in the Sun” is about a family who leaves their apartment to live in a home surrounded by white neighbors. “Clybourne Park,” though centered on the same home, is about a “house of youth” where a young family now resides. In the second act of the play, we see the progression of the house, its economic evolution and how the neighborhood is now more diverse after 50 years have gone by. Today, we see more white people moving back to this neighborhood and replacing old homes with much larger houses.
“Clybourne Park is about understanding that, as a society, we live in a culture full of stereotypes where many offenses are made toward one another,” Jellicorse disclosed. “How we as individuals present ourselves to the world determines how people treat us and react to us.”
“Chosen action and behavior influence whether or not we will be offended,” she continued. “As humans, we are very sensitive to what is said to us and can be taken aback by comments that are not meant to be hurtful. While watching this play, it is important to notice what you are sensitive to and what does not affect you as deeply. Clybourne Park’s characters do not necessarily do anything offensive, but they speak about what is offensive.”
Jellicorse also spoke about the connection between both plays. “Raisin in the Sun portrays a time when people responded critically and in a hostile manner. In Clybourne Park, some things have changed, but many things have not and it is just the way we talk about them that has altered,” she noted, when asked if “A Raisin in the Sun” has a similar underlying theme. She watched the production of “A Raisin in the Sun” at Triad Stage, a unique opportunity. After witnessing what goes on behind the scenes, she chose to direct “Clybourne Park”.
Jellicorse explained the play in further detail. “Clybourne Park is an argument play, and Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” is a story of a family, and I very much try to bring that sense of the story of a family to Clybourne Park,” she said. “It is about the Stoller family and what happened to them in that house, the ramifications of why they left their house and what that meant for succeeding families living within that house, and the house itself.”
“A Raisin in the Sun” is a historic piece, a genuine work. “Clybourne Park” is also about realism and curiosity, due to the year of the original production, alteration of characters and tensions between them. “Clybourne Park” is magical because of the authenticity of the house. These plays study race, family dynamics and truly being able to give your child the best upbringing possible, as well as how we let rules of society interfere with how to raise our families.
“A Raisin in the Sun is a hopeful play, and Clybourne Park is more cynical,” said Jellicorse, in response to how they differ. “Lorraine Hansberry, writer of A Raisin in the Sun, believed we could transcend our differences, and Bruce Norris, from the body of his work, does not believe that is possible.”
The show runs April 18 – 22 at Taylor Theatre with substantial discounts for UNCG students.