“Never before, in the entire history of theatre, has so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen on the stage” – James Baldwin.
A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry
February 21 / February 28 / March 14 / March 21 at 20:00 hrs in THEATER AM OLGAECK
Directed by Brittany Mbuyamba
Featuring Shetera Butler, Lucius Smith, Dion Dupree, Dr. Kenyetta Thigpen, Edrice Jean-Baptiste, Antonio Johnson, Major John Manley
Photos by Uka Meissner-deRuiz
When the play A RAISIN IN THE SUN first premiered on Broadway in 1959 it was a landmark in American theatrical history. At the time, it was generally assumed that there was no black Broadway audience, no significant white audience to be had for a play about African Americans and certainly no commercial viability for a serious play about the lives of an underprivileged minority. Lorraine Hansberry’s play achieved the impossible and became an all-out commercial and critical success. The unknown 29-year-old playwright received the Best Play of the Year Award from the New York Drama Critics becoming the first black author and only the fifth woman to do so. The popularity of the play has never waned, despite being very much of its era; it is still relevant today and has become an American classic.
The young gifted Lorraine Hansberry clearly had her hand on the pulse of time and a unique talent for highlighting the pressing issues that would leap into prominence in the ’60’s to become the central themes in the collective consciousness of the United States. She forsaw the racial, sexual, and social revolutions on the horizon. On the threshhold of the new decade, women were inspired to the reawakening of feminist thought, there was a strong surge of African American pride, as the issues of integration and equality became ever more pressing.
A RAISIN IN THE SUN tells the story of a black family struggling against segregation and living in poverty in a dilapidated one-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s south side. Using the inheritance from the life insurance policy of her deceased husband, Mama wants to buy a house and fulfill a dream that she shared with her husband. This attempt to “better” themselves results in a series of conflicts within the family. Daughter Beneatha hopes to use the money for her medical school tuition, son Walter wants to invest in a liquor store and quite his job as a limousine driver.
As the play progresses, the Youngers clash over their competing dreams. Walter’s wife, Ruth, discovers that she is pregnant but fears that if she has the child, she will put more financial pressure on her family members. When Walter says nothing to Ruth’s admission that she is considering abortion. The Youngers eventually move out of the apartment. Their future seems uncertain and slightly dangerous, but they are optimistic and determined to live a better life. They believe that they can succeed if they stick together as a family and resolve to defer their dreams no longer.
It is important today, to reflect on the beginnings of the American Civil Rights Movement and the heroes and maryrs who suffered and died for their rights because they were at the vanguard of change.
February 1, 1960 – Four college students in Greensboro, North Carolina refuse to leave a Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter without being served. Their nonviolent demonstration sparks similar “sit-ins” throughout the city and in other states.
Novmeber 14, 1960 – Six year old Ruby Bridges was escorted to her first day at the previously all white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans by four armed federal marshals. They were met with agry mobs shouting their disapproval, and, throught the day, parents marched in to removie their children from the school as a protest to desegregation. Every subsequent day of that academic year Bridges was escorted to school, enduring insults and theats on her way, and then learning her lessons from young theater, Barbara Henry, in an otherwise empty classroom.
More information at https://civilrightstrail.com/timeline/