Civil rights in the city

By Jeff Plotner ‘15
February 27, 2014

Bradley University Theatre’s Hartman Center for the Performing Arts will premiere Pulitzer Prize-winning “Clybourne Park” February 27 as part of a year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“We felt this was a really good time because the issues this play raises were so fundamental to the passage of the Civil Rights Act,” said Scott Kanoff, interim theatre arts chair.

“Clybourne Park” tackles racism by addressing the issue of equal rights in housing and shines a light on the discrimination of restrictive covenants that segregated neighborhoods before the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The two-act play connects the lives of an African-American family who buys a house in a white neighborhood in 1959 America and white family who fifty years later moves into an African-American neighborhood.

Inside the Meyer Jacobs Theatre the audience will witness the 1959 era set travel through time.

“The set completely transforms during intermission,” said stage manager Cat Zimmerman.

Built in shop by the theatre department, both sets will accurately reflect the time period of the story. Hours of research went into choosing props, wardrobe and even lighting to achieve an authentic atmosphere for the first act.

If fast-forwarding fifty years in fifteen minutes wasn’t shocking enough, the audience may be surprised at the controversial way “Clybourne Park” uses humor to deal with the history of racism.

“It’s not what you would expect,” Kanoff said. “The rhythms of the play are really comedic.”

The subject matter is not inherently humorous, but it’s a “humor of recognition,” says Kanoff.

“Clybourne Park” promises laughs, but the audience will come face to face with the dark past of racism in America and start conversations on how to continue fighting for equality today. This powerful side effect of entertainment is what Kanoff called the purpose of theater.

“Theater brings us in a room in the dark with a whole bunch of other people, and we raise these issues and tell stories,” he said. “And the stories get completed in every audience member’s head.”

“Clybourne Park” will run Thursdays through Saturdays February 27-March 1 and March 6-8 at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees run March 2 and 9 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for Bradley faculty and staff/students/seniors. The production is open to the public. Tickets are $14 for adults, $7 for students. For tickets call 309-677-2650.