FIU Theatre ends off the 2024 Spring term productions with Clybourne Park

Promo for Clybourne Park | Photo Courtesy of FIU Theatre

Kaysea Suzana | Assistant Entertainment Director

Performed from April 4 through April 15, FIU Theatre presents their last production of the semester Clybourne Park, a tale of racial tension and struggle. 

Taking place in Chicago, the two act play written by Bruce Norris showcases a fictional continuation of the play “A Raisin in the Sun” written by Lorraine Hansberry.

The story takes place in two distant time periods in America. 

The play begins by showing a black family moving into a predominantly white suburb in the late 1950’s, then shows glimpses of how the family changed half a century later.

Director Melvin Huffnagle spoke on the plot and the what he wants audiences to take away.

“It is a story of gentrification, racial relations and how we’ve progressed in this struggle since the civil war–since the civil rights movement.

“I want the audience to come in as observers of this. And to form an opinion after they witness the production,” Huffnagle said.

The first half of the play tackles the concept of white flight, as the predominantly white characters of the play bicker and argue over the selling of a house, and its new ownership to a black family.

The second half focuses on the fray of the changing housing market of the 2008 recession, where wealthy white americans are now rebuying the properties of the neighborhood and causing difficulty for the african-americans who moved in.

Huffnagle proposes that the major question that the play tackles is: “Whose neighborhood is this really? Who does it belong to?”

In terms of the cast, Huffnagle was adamant about the actors’ contributions.

“I wanted actors who were brave. I needed actors who can bring the emotional temperament without any hesitation. People who were able to be as honest as possible without hurting others,” said Huffnagle.

Additionally, Huffnagle confirmed that the actors were also chosen to portray the race of the characters they were performing.

Freshman BFA Design major Gage Meskauskas spoke on the challenges of the sound design.

“Getting into the world is challenging. Being in 1959 Chicago, 2009 Chicago–what brings you there?” Meskauskas said.

For Meskauskas, authenticity was important, and so this was achieved through the use of radios, music of the times and crackling effects to ensure that the quality of the sound produced reflected the emerging technology of the ‘50s. 

Being a freshman, Meskauskas commented on what had helped when taking the role as sound designer. 

“It’s a lot of new stuff to learn. But there’s also a  lot of good support, a lot of faculty wanting to help out. There’s nothing that can’t be handled,” Meskausas said.

Additionally, Meskauskas confirmed that the actors would not be using mics, and instead will rely on the stage to project their voice.

Ambience was especially of interest to Meskauskas, as there were inclusions of sound bytes from construction, cityscape, ruffled movement, doors creaking, and more to fit the lively atmosphere of the suburbia.

Meskauskas showed great excitement in the opportunity that the production had offered.

“Having a lot of fun with this! I want to pursue it more, but right now it’s about experimenting with things. Going into this, I had no idea about sound design but I decided to jump into it. If you get an opportunity that comes your way–try it out,” Meskauskas said.

Huffnagle ended with a comment on the nature of his work, and his objective with the performance.

“My goal is to leave the audience thinking about these issues. In this play, we see people tiptoeing the issue until they have to talk about it,” said Huffnagle. 

“I hope it brings a dialogue between people of different races without diving into arguments.”

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