Sunday, March 21, 2010

What defines a community?

The Woolly Mammoth Theater Company invited some DC neighborhood bloggers to the play Clybourne Park. I attended the show on Friday night and bumped into And Now, Anacostia. All I knew about the play was it centered around the issues of gentrification (yes the "g" word). The first Act is set in a 1950's white community in the city. A black family moves in the neighborhood and the white community becomes concerned. In the second act, it's now present day. It is a black community and a white couple is moving in. Obviously, there is more to the play than that, but I don't want to spoil it for people intending on seeing it.

Probably contrary to other parts of the City, the change from a white community to a black community happened relatively quickly in Fairfax Village. This community was built in the 1940s as apartments for working class residents, who happened to be white. This area was largely unaffected by the 1968 riots. In the 1970s, a developer converted Fairfax Village from apartments to condos. Most of the people that bought after the conversion were black. There are several neighbors who have lived here since Fairfax Village became condos.

The play reveals the complexities that exist in communities today related to how communities change over times. The ending raises more questions than it answers. The big question that I walked away asking myself was "What defines a community?" People move in and out of communities all the time. Is community defined by race? economic status? family composition? Do we have to be like or look like our neighbors in order to considered a community?

Maybe I have some Pollyanna tendencies, but I'd like to think that despite where we come from, what we do, or what we look like, we are a community. People make a community. Just people.

Readers of Life in the Village 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 March 15 – April 11, 2010. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm and 7pm. Questions? Visit woollymammoth-dot-net or email Rachel Grossman, Connectivity Director,

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