Monday, April 12, 2010
Is our neighborhood Clybourne Park?
I caught Clybourne Park at the Woolly Mammoth the other day (I made use of the special discount rate that Woolly has graciously given to neighborhood bloggers and readers of neighborhood blogs; the show is in its final days and I don't know if the discount code still works but give it a shot: the code is 789 for $15 tickets).
A brief synopsis: the playwright was inspired by A Raisin in the Sun, and the first act of the play, set in 1959, is told from the point of view of the white family that sells their house to the Youngers (or the Hansberrys). The sale of the house in the all-white Clybourne Park section of Chicago incites white flight, and in the next few decades the neighborhood's demographics change dramatically.
The second act takes place in 2009, in the same house. It's been purchased by a well-off and way neurotic white couple. They're building a koi pond in the backyard, fighting the zoning codes in order to build additions onto the house and McMansionize it, and are thrilled to be moving so close to Clybourne Park's newly-opened Whole Foods.
To answer the question that Woolly has been posing, "Is your neighborhood Clybourne Park?", well, yes, Clybourne Park is a lot like Brightwood, and many other neighborhoods throughout DC (as well as many other major cities all over the United States). The houses on my block were built in the early 1920s and housed a white (mostly Jewish, from what I understand) majority at the time. Further investigation of exactly how much Brightwood's history reflects the story of Clybourne Park will require a few trips to the Washintoniana room at MLK. I'll write more about that in the future, but wanted to post this now in order to give the excellent show a plug before it closes on April 17.