Plays by Bruce Norris

audio The Actor Retires

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Steppenwolf Theatre Company playwright and actor Bruce Norris presents a hilarious comedy in which an actor decides to end his career, burn his headshots and resumés, and become a serious furniture maker.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Bruce Norris, D.W. Moffett, Lucy Childs, Christopher Donahue, Kevin Hurley, Amy Morton, Susan Nussbaum and William Peterson

Featuring: Lucy Childs, Christopher Donahue, Kevin Hurley, D.W. Moffett, Amy Morton, Bruce Norris, Susan Nussbaum, William Petersen

Clybourne Park

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park is an acerbic satire tracing the fault line between race and property through the changing ownership of a property in Clybourne Street, central Chicago. It is also a witty riff on Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by a black female playwright to run on Broadway.

Clybourne Park was first performed at Playwrights Horizons, New York City, on 21 February 2010.

The play is set in the interior of 'a modest three-bedroom bungalow, 406 Clybourne Street, in the near north-west of central Chicago'. In the opening act, set in 1959, Russ and Bev are moving out after a family tragedy. Their son committed suicide in the house, after going off the rails during the Korean War, and they are desperate to get out. They are selling the place for a knock-down price, which means that a black family will be moving in, much to the disquiet of neighbourhood resident Karl, who pops round to tell Bev and Russ – in front of the black maid Francine – that they are undermining property values. In the second act, set in 2009, the same property is being bought by Lindsey and Steve, a young white couple who want to build a new house on the same plot, but face hostility from the all-black residents' committee who are concerned that white newcomers will erase the cultural significance of the area.

Part of the power of Clybourne Park derives from how the events in the play intersect with those in Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In the earlier play, the black Youngers plan to move into a white neighborhood when a character named Karl Lindner, a representative of the community association, offers to buy them out. In the first act of Clybourne Park, the same Karl Lindner tries to persuade the house’s white owners not to sell to a black family – the Youngers, it is assumed – out of fear of what that would do to the property values and the culture of the neighbourhood.

The Playwrights Horizons production was directed by Pam MacKinnon. It was performed by Frank Wood, Christina Kirk, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, Jeremy Shamos and Annie Parisse. The production transferred to Broadway the following year.

The play received its European premiere at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 2 September 2010 (previews from 26 August), directed by Dominic Cooke and designed by Robert Innes Hopkins. It was performed by Steffan Rhodri, Sophie Thompson, Lorna Brown, Sam Spruell, Lucian Msamati, Martin Freeman, Sarah Goldberg and Michael Goldsmith.

This production received its West End premiere at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London, on 8 February 2011 (previews from 28 January), with some changes to the cast.

The play received numerous awards, including the London Evening Standard Award for Best Play, the Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, the Olivier Award for Best New Play, the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Pain and the Itch

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bruce Norris's play The Pain and the Itch is a social satire about Western liberal hypocrisy. It was originally commissioned by the Philadelphia Theatre Company and received its world premiere at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, on 30 June 2005.

The play is set in a handsomely appointed apartment in an unnamed American city. The apartment belongs to an apparently contented young couple: stay-at-home dad Clay and his high-flying lawyer wife Kelly. The play takes place in two separate time frames, at two gatherings spliced together for dramatic effect. One is a Thanksgiving holiday dinner, at which Clay and Kelly are joined by Clay's plastic-surgeon brother Cash, his Eastern European girlfriend Kalina, and Clay's mother Carol. During the dinner it is revealed that Clay and Kelly’s toddler daughter Kayla is suffering from an uncomfortable genital rash of unknown and possibly sinister cause. This discovery leads, through a chain of anxiety and coincidence, to the second gathering, at which the family tries to explain to a taxi driver, Mr. Hadid, just how the disturbing news of Kayla’s affliction led to the tragedy that has upended his life.

The Steppenwolf production was directed by Anna D. Shapiro and designed by Dan Ostling (set) and Janice Pytel (costumes). It was performed by James Vincent Meredith, Mariann Mayberry, Zak Orth, Lillan Almaguer, Darragh Quinn Dolan, Tracy Letts, Kate Arrington and Jane Houdyshell.

The play received its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons on 1 September 2006 in a production directed by Anna D. Shapiro.

It was first performed in the UK at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 14 June 2007 in a production directed by Dominic Cooke, his inaugural production as Artistic Director of the theatre. The production was designed by Robert Innes Hopkins and performed by Abdi Gouhad, Matthew Macfadyen, Sara Stewart, Hannah Gunn, Shannon Kelly, Angelica Trew, Peter Sullivan, Andrea Riseborough and Amanda Boxer.

Picture of Bruce Norris

Bruce Norris is an American actor and playwright who lives in New York. He is the author of Clybourne Park, which premiered at Playwrights Horizons in New York, in 2010, before transferring to the Royal Court Theatre and the West End in London. A playful response to Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal drama, A Raisin in the Sun, Clybourne Park is the only play to date to have received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony, Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play.

His other plays include The Infidel (2000), Purple Heart (2002), We all Went Down to Amsterdam (2003), The Unmentionables (2006) and A Parallelogram (2010) which were all first produced by Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago; The Pain and the Itch (Playwrights Horizons, Steppenwolf, 2004, Royal Court Theatre, 2007; winner of Chicago’s Jefferson Joseph Award for Best New Work); The Low Road (Royal Court Theatre, 2013) and Domesticated (Lincoln Center, 2013).

Bruce Norris is the recipient of the Steinberg Playwright Award (2009) and the Whiting Foundation Prize for Drama (2006). As an actor he can be seen in the films A Civil Action, The Sixth Sense and All Good Things.