Part of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's marketing and community engagement campaign for their current production of Clybourne Park has been to enlist neighborhood bloggers to see the show and answer the question:
Frankly, yes it is.
Clybourne Park is the story of a bungalow in the fictional inner-ring suburb of Chicago by the same name. The first half of the show takes place in 1959, and the plot centers around a middle-aged white couple who are moving out of the house to a new home in a further-out suburb. Tensions rise when the Clybourne Park neighbors discover that the family who is moving into the couple's old house is black.
The second half takes place in 2009, when the neighborhood is transitioning from the predominantly black neighborhood it became in the 1960s into a more diverse neighborhood with a Whole Foods. The conflict in the second act? The young white couple that bought the bungalow wants to tear it down and build a larger house, despite protestations by the preservation-focused neighborhood association.
Granted, Anacostia doesn't have a Whole Foods (yet), but the story mirrors the changes that are happening here. Racial accusations, the ever-controversial topic of "gentrification", and neighborhood development character are part of conversations I hear and am part of every week. What should Anacostia become? Who gets to stay? How will its built legacies and histories be preserved?
Like Clybourne Park, Anacostia (Historic Anacostia / Uniontown) was an all-white neighborhood until the 1960s. Its businesses and housing stock saw major declines in the second part of the 20th century. And like in Clybourne Park, today there are many people and organizations here in Anacostia that are interested in seeing the neighborhood develop into something that recognizes history, respects its buildings, and fuses new with old.
If you like the place you live, the people you are used to seeing, and the routines you are used to walking, it's easy to be afraid of the unfamiliar. Clybourne Park, the play, doesn't answer the tough questions about gentrification, racial stereotypes, etc, but it poses them in such a way that makes you want to talk. I think that's the best kind of art.
Want to see Clybourne Park for yourself? Readers of And Now, Anacostia can see any performance of Clybourne Park for only $15. Use this numeric code 789 when arranging tickets. Reservations can be made online, over the phone (202-393-3939), or in person (641 D Street NW, Washington, DC). Clybourne Park runs through April 17th.