PlayMakers Repertory Company offers audiences two insightful looks at race and the meaning of home in productions of “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Clybourne Park,” to be performed in rotating repertory Jan. 26 to March 3. PlayMakers is the professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
First produced in 1959, Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark drama “A Raisin in the Sun” has become an acknowledged American masterpiece. Nominated for multiple Tony Awards, “Raisin” was the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. The New York Times proclaimed that it“changed American theater forever.”
In the groundbreaking story proceeds from a life insurance policy give the Younger family hope for a better life. Can their “dreams deferred” be realized by moving into a home in an all-white neighborhood when they are confronted with conflicting desires within their family and racial prejudice outside their door?
Written by Bruce Norris in 2009, “Clybourne Park” takes up the story where “Raisin” leaves off, in 1959 with a white couple selling their home to the Youngers and causing uproar among their middle class neighbors. The second act fast-forwards 50 years with neighborhood demographics radically shifted and the first family of gentrifying whites about to move into what is now a predominantly black community. Times have changed, but what about the no-holds-barred conversation about race and the politics of community?
“Clybourne Park” has been honored with the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play. The New York Times called it“the year’s slyest and bravest political comedy.” The San Francisco Chronicle said the play “articulates brilliantly, wittily and painfully our inability to talk about race.”
“Raisin” director Raelle Myrick-Hodges also helmed “Topdog/Underdog” (2008) and “I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady From Rwanda” (2010) at PlayMakers. “Clybourne Park” director Tracy Young’s work has been called “true genius” by the Los Angeles Times.
Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays (except Jan. 26) and Sundays (except Jan. 27, which is at 7:30 p.m.) There are opportunities to see both plays back-to-back on four Saturdays, (Feb. 2, 16 and 23 and March 2). On these dates, boxed dinners from Whole Foods Market will be available for purchase. On Feb. 2, a wine dinner at Bin 54 with transportation to and from the theater between “Raisin” and “Clybourne Park” will also be available. Pre-ordering dinner when purchasing show tickets is recommended.
All performances will be in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Tickets are still available as part of the theater’s 2012-2013 season subscription packages. Individual tickets are $15 to $50.
For a complete performance schedule, to purchase tickets and to learn about community activities scheduled in connection with the run, call (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit www.playmakersrep.org.
PlayMakers will host a series of special events under the banner “A Dream Deferred: Urban Development and Gentrification in Contemporary America” focused on themes of gentrification and displacement raised by the plays.
- Jan. 16, 6:30 p.m. in the Paul Green Theatre: “The Vision Series,” a behind-the-scenes preview with the directors, designers, and special guests “Clybourne Park” playwright Bruce Norris and Harry Elam, Vice Provost of Stanford University, a renowned scholar on the life and works of “Raisin” playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Hosted by PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj, this evening included a preview of the productions with a Q&A session, followed by a reception. This event is free and open to the public, however reservations are appreciated. To RSVP, call the PlayMakers box office at (919) 962-7529 or register online at www.playmakersrep.org/outreach.
- Film screenings, Jan. 17 (“The Pruitt-Igoe Myth”) and Jan. 24 (Flag Wars”), 7 p.m., Varsity on Franklin, Chapel Hill, as part of the Ackland Film Forum: award-winning documentary “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth” examines the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II through the lens of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing development and the St. Louis residents who called it home. “Flag Wars” is a poignant look at a community in Columbus, Ohio undergoing gentrification when gay white homebuyers move into a working-class black neighborhood. This unvarnished portrait of privilege, poverty and local politics won the Jury Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
- Feb. 18, 7:00 p.m. at Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville St., Durham: “Daring Dreams: What is the Price of Progress?”In partnership with the Durham County Library, a conversation on the future of urban development in the Triangle with community leaders including Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and former Durham Mayor Wib Gulley, moderated by Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Shelley Green.
- Feb. 25, 7:00 p.m. in the Paul Green Theatre: Sacrificial Poets in performance. Original performances inspired by issues of housing, gentrification, community and home, featuring the award-winning Chapel Hill spoken word and hip hop poetry arts group.
Other events before and during the run of the plays will include:
- Jan. 14, 7 p.m.: “In the Wings,” presented by PlayMakers and the Durham County Library. Cast and creative team members (designers, actors and production personnel) discuss the plays at the Southwest Regional Library, 3605 Shannon Road, Durham;
- Jan. 28, 6 p.m.: a discussion with the directors and cast at McIntyre’s Books, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro;
- Jan. 26 through Feb. 1: preview performances at 7:30 p.m.;
- Feb. 2: opening day; “A Raisin in the Sun” at 2 p.m. and “Clybourne Park” at 7:30 p.m., with a complimentary gala party after the evening show;
- Feb. 9 (“Raisin”) and 16 (“Clybourne Park”), 2 p.m.: open captioned performances;
- Feb 11 and 17 (“Raisin”), Feb. 24 and 28 (“Clybourne Park”): free post-show discussions with the creative team;
- Feb. 19 (“Raisin”) and 26 (“Clybourne Park”): all-access performances for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description; and,
- March 2 and 3: free post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recognized PlayMakers with a $100,000 “Art Works” grant to support the plays and the “Dream Deferred” outreach series. The award was the largest given by the NEA to any professional theater for a production staged during the 2012-2013 season. The NEA, based in Washington, D.C., is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.
Carol Woods and UNC-TV are co-producing sponsors for “A Raisin in the Sun.” The Catering Company is co-producing sponsor for “Clybourne Park.”
PlayMakers’ Mainstage season finale will be the musical “Cabaret” (April 3-21.) The PRC2 second stage closes with the world premiere of “Spring Training” (April 24-28).
PlayMakers is based in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. New York’s Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the best regional theater companies in America and The Independent Weekly calls PlayMakers the best live theater company in the Triangle.
Web site: www.playmakersrep.org