‘Clybourne Park’ opens at SHSU

The Sam Houston State University Theater department’s next big show is “Clybourne Park.” The production is directed by Kevin Couch and assistant director Hannah Meade. The show has a cast of seven, and each actor plays two characters – one for each act. The cast includes Charles Mitchell as Russ and Dan, Brita Fagerstrom as Bev and Kathy, Joshua Folsom as Jim and Tom, Ephraim Tallerine as Karl Lindner and Steve, Ally Marion as Betsy and Lindsey, Kyle Ward as Albert and Kevin and Brianna Odo-Boms as Francine and Lena.

“Clybourne Park” is a satire about the politics of race. In response to the success of Lorraine Hansberry’s play, “A Raisin in the Sun,” playwright Bruce Norris sets up “Clybourne Park” as a two-act play that ties in with Hansberry’s piece. These two acts are set fifty years apart ofrom one another. Both acts are set in the same house in northwest Chicago that is featured at the center of “A Raisin in the Sun’s” plot.

“Since the cast is so small, we got to really talk about the issues together and how the audience will see it and how it will speak to the audience in an intimate level,” Meade said. “We sat down with this text for a long time and went over and over with it because it says so much.”

Act I takes place before the events of “A Raisin in the Sun” while Act II takes place after the events of “A Raisin in the Sun.” In 1959, Russ and Bev are moving out to the suburbs after the death of their son. Involuntarily, they sold their house to the neighborhood’s first black family. 50 years later in 2009, the tables have turned when a young, white couple buys the lot in what is now a predominantly black neighborhood. In both instances, a community showdown takes place— “pitting race against real estate with this home in the suburbs as the battlefield.” The show tackles topics throughout the years such as racism and communication.

Director Kevin Couch hopes the boundaries of this production will stretch beyond the walls of the theater.

“I want the audience to continue the conversation,” Couch said. “Some people refer to the ‘act three,’ and the ‘act three’ in this show is the car ride home for the audience. I hope the conversation continues.  How we talk about race— how we talk about how far we think we’ve come as a society. Have we come that far? Are we as improved as we think we are? I think the show really talks a lot about how far we may have come or how far we may not have. In the current political climate, I think it is a good conversation to continue to have.”

“Clybourne Park” is running March 21-24. The play will be held at the University Theatre in the Showcase Theatre. The ticket admission is $10 and is open to anyone.

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