Studio 180's acclaimed production returns as part of the Off-Mirvish Second Stage Series at the Panasonic Theatre
"People are simply not accustomed to talking openly about race, it's an uncomfortable reality," says Studio 180 artistic director Joel Greenberg on the subject of directing Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, a modern reworking of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun, on stage from February 12 to March 3 at the Panasonic Theatre.
After a hit Canadian premiere at the Berkeley Street Theatre last April, Studio 180's celebrated production returns for a limited engagement this month as part of the Off-Mirvish Second Stage season. The production features a powerhouse cast—Audrey Dwyer, Michael Healey (who received a Dora nomination for his performance), Sterling Jarvis, Jeff Lillico, Mark McGrinder, Kimwun Perehinec, and Maria Ricossa—and a remarkable creative team, including costume designer Michelle Bailey, set designer Jung-Hye Kim, lighting designer Kimberly Purtell and sound designer Lyon Smith.
"When we closed the show last April we certainly had no reason to think that we would be doing it again," says Greenberg. "We packed everything up, got rid of a number of things, and in late September we were made the offer. The immediate challenge was to make sure that everybody who had done the show, both on stage and off, was available to do it again, and everybody was. So it was exciting to be asked and even more exciting to know that we could bring everybody back together."
Clybourne Park follows two generations of homeowners in a Chicago suburb over a span of 50 years. The first half takes place in 1959 in a white, middle class neighbourhood, while the second half jumps forward to the present day (2009) in the same house, now in a largely black neighbourhood. The actors reappear as new characters in act two, each mirroring their counterparts from the first act. But despite some changes in attitude toward race, class and property, the tension between the black and white residents remains.
"The tone of the acts are different, so finding the right balance, and making a virtue of that, and the precision that's required of the writing and the rhythms of the play, that's the toughest for the actors," Greenberg explains. "It's not an easy script to learn because it's so quick, there are so many short lines. Once you have it it's fun to play, but you just can't relax, and that's a good thing."
The play also makes it impossible for the audience to relax, with Norris' satirical script provoking nervous laughter in every scene. It's funny because it makes people uncomfortable. "That's very much what Norris has written and what he wants," says Greenberg. "It's not a situation comedy. It's a serious play written in a comic voice."
Clybourne Park puts difficult issues on the table in an entertaining way that forces a discussion. "I think that's why the play works so well, because you can't ignore it," Greenberg says. And trust us, you don't want to.
Clybourne Park begins previews tonight and runs until March 3 at the Panasonic Theatre. Visit mirvish.com for more information and to buy tickets.