(BOSTON) — Fifty-four years after its Broadway premiere, the Huntington Theatre Company presents A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry's landmark family classic about deferred dreams. Liesl Tommy (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Ruined – IRNE Award for Best Director and Production) returns to the Huntington to helm the production that features Leroy McClain (the title role in Hamlet at California Shakespeare Theater) as Walter Lee Younger and Kimberly Scott (Molly Cunningham in Joe Turner's Come and Gone – Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations) as matriarch Lena Younger.
"Whenever we're approaching a classic, we do so with the director in mind," says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. "Liesl Tommy's powerful Ruined and her fresh approach to Ma Rainey's Black Bottom are two of the most artistically exciting productions of recent memory at the Huntington, and I look forward to her bringing her perspective to one of the greatest American plays ever written." Hear more from Peter DuBois about the production at huntingtontheatre.org/peter-raisin.
Hailed by The New York Times as "a play that changed American theatre forever," A Raisin in the Sun is a fiercely moving portrait of the Younger family – Walter, his wife Ruth, son Travis, mother Lena, and sister Beneatha – packed into a tiny apartment on Chicago's South Side. They yearn for a better life, and an impending insurance payment could be the key: for Beneatha, an education; for Walter, a business of his own; for Lena, the stability and legacy of homeownership. When Lena takes steps to buy a house in an all-white neighborhood, a racist representative offers to pay the family not to move, and Walter is faced with the choice of erasing past financial mistakes or finally seizing the American Dream so long deferred.
"My father was an urban planner who worked on low-income housing in Boston, and we often talked about how destructive to family life tiny apartments can be," recalls director Liesl Tommy. "With this production, I'm looking to explore just how desperate poverty can make you when you don't have the space to be yourself."
Hansberry's groundbreaking classic was inspired by her father Carl's battle to move his family to an all-white neighborhood of Chicago in 1938. After the family took up residency, their neighbors fought to remove them by citing a restrictive covenant they had signed to keep African-Americans out. When the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against the family in 1940, Carl appealed to the US Supreme Court in 1940. The Court's ruling secured the Hansberrys' residency, but unready to address the underling civil rights issue, was silent on the legality of restrictive covenants.
A Raisin in the Sun was the first play by an African-American or directed by an African-American to premiere on Broadway. Despite first touring to successful reviews, it took producer Philip Rose more than a year to raise the money to mount it. The production received four Tony Award nominations in 1960 (Best Play, Actor, Actress, Direction) and has been revived and adapted for the screen to great acclaim. It received the 1959 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play. Having been in continuous production for more than 50 years, the play has become a cultural trope for how we think about the American Dream.
"A Raisin in the Sun asks us to examine the human condition and what it means to be human," says Joi Gresham, Executive Director and Literary Trustee of The Lorraine Hansberry Literary Trust. "How much can we distance a man or a woman from their dreams and aspirations – for themselves, for their children – and still expect them to maintain their dignity and humanity?"
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Leroy McClain (the title role in Hamlet at California Shakespeare Theater) as Walter Lee Younger and Kimberly Scott (Molly Cunningham in Joe Turner's Come and Gone – Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations) as Lena Younger lead the cast that also features Corey Allen (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Huntington) as George Murchison; Jason Bowen (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Ruined at the Huntington) as Joseph Asagai; Ashley Everage (Fen and In the Blood at Rutgers Theater Company) as Ruth Younger; Will McGarrahan (Next Fall and The Drowsy Chaperone at SpeakEasy Stage Company) as Karl Lindner; Maurice E. Parent(The Mountaintop at the Underground Railway Theater) as Bobo; and Keona Welch (Moony's Kid Don't Cry at the Drama League DirectorFest 2012) as Beneatha Younger. Cory Janvier and Zaire White alternate as Travis Younger. Calvin Braxton and Christian Roberts are the Moving Men.
Lorraine Hansberry (Playwright) was a playwright, essayist, poet, and leading literary figure in the civil rights movement. A Raisin in the Sun won the 1959 New York Drama Critics Circle Award and made her the first black, youngest person, and fifth woman to win that prize. Her play The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window was produced on Broadway in 1964. Ms. Hansberry left a number of finished and unfinished writings that indicate the breadth of her social and artistic vision. Robert Nemiroff, whom she had divorced in 1964 but designated as her literary executor, adapted some of her writings for the stage under the title To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. He also edited and published an anthology of her work (reissued in 1994) that included Les Blancs, The Drinking Gourd, and What Use Are Flowers?. She died from pancreatic cancer in 1965 at the age of 34. A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by an African-American woman produced on Broadway, has become a classic of the American theatre and has enjoyed numerous professional revivals.
Liesl Tommy (Director) returns to the Huntington having previously directed Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Ruined. Her recent credits include the world premieres of Party People by Universes (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), The White Man — A Complex Declaration of Love by Joan Rang (DanskDansk Theatre, Denmark),Peggy Pickett Sees the Face of God by Roland Schimmelpfennig (Luminato Festival/Canadian Stage), Eclipsed by Danai Gurira (Yale Repertory Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and McCarter Theatre), The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson (The Public Theater/NYSF and Dallas Theater Center), A History of Light by Eisa Davis (Contemporary American Theatre Festival), Angela's Mixtape by Eisa Davis (Synchronicity Performance Group, New Georges), A Stone's Throw by Lynn Nottage (Women's Project), and Misterioso 119 by Koffi Kwahule (Berkshire Theatre Group and Act French Festival/Lark Theatre). Her productions have won numerous awards for directing, acting, and design. She has taught master classes in acting, directing, and new play development internationally and taught at The Juilliard School, Trinity Rep/Brown University, The Strasberg Institute, and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She is an artistic associate at Sundance Theatre Institute, a native of Cape Town, South Africa and a graduate of Newton North High School and Trinity Repertory Conservatory.
Scenic design by Clint Ramos (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Ruined at the Huntington); costume design by Kathleen Geldard (Invisible Man and Ruined at the Huntington); lighting design by Lap Chi Chu (Ruined at the Huntington), and original music and sound design by Broken Chord (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom andRuined at the Huntington). Production stage manager is Leslie Sears. Stage manager is Phyllis Y. Smith.
- Grand Patron: Boston University
- Season Sponsors: Carol G. Deane, J. David Wimberly
- Production Co-Sponsors: Betsy & David Epstein; Rita J. & Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation – Ms. Susan B. Kaplan and Nancy & Mark Belsky
IN CONVERSATION WITH SPEAKEASY STAGE COMPANY'S CLYBOURNE PARK
The Huntington production of A Raisin in the Sun will run concurrently with SpeakEasy Stage Company's production of Clybourne Park (March 1 — 30). Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, Clybourne Park picks up where Raisin leaves off. In its first act, nervous community leaders try to stop the sale of the home to the family from Raisin. The second act fast-forwards the action 50 years as a white couple that plans to demolish and rebuild the house faces parallel opposition from the now African-American neighborhood association.
Huntington Theatre Company, SpeakEasy Stage Company, and the City of Boston's Office of Arts, Tourism, and Special Events will collaborate to present Two Plays, One House: A Raisin in the Sun & Clybourne Park at Dorchester's Strand Theatre on Wednesday, February 20 at 7pm. Hosted by Karen Holmes Ward, WCVB-TV's Director of Public Affairs and Community Services and host and executive producer of "CityLine," the evening will feature performances of scenes from each of the two plays and a panel conversation moderated by Ward with directors Liesl Tommy (A Raisin in the Sun) and M. Bevin O'Gara (Clybourne Park) about the issues of racism and gentrification raised in the plays. The evening is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are encouraged at huntingtontheatre.org/StrandRSVP.
"A Raisin in the Sun's incredible legacy shines on Clybourne Park," says Boston Mayor, the Honorable Thomas M. Menino. "These powerful plays explore themes such as racism, neighborhood identity, and the search for home in complex ways that resonate in our community today. I commend the Huntington Theatre Company and SpeakEasy Stage Company on this partnership to inspire meaningful discourse, and I look forward to welcoming them to the beautiful Strand Theatre for what promises to be a terrific evening." Learn more at huntingtontheatre.org/strand.
ABOUT THE HUNTINGTON
Since its founding in 1982, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading theatre company. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current. Led by Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington creates award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington is in residence at Boston University. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.
PRODUCTION CALENDAR AND RELATED EVENTS
Post-Show Audience Conversations
Led by members of the Huntington staff. After most Tuesday — Friday, Saturday matinee, and Sunday matinee performances throughout the season. Free with a ticket to the performance.
- Thursday, March 28 following the 7:30pm performance
- Wednesday, April 3 following the 2pm performance
Participating cast members answer questions from the audience.
Student Matinee Performances with Actors Forums — SOLD OUT
- Thursday, March 21 at 10am (Audio-Described)
- Friday, April 5 at 10am
For students in grades 6-12. To reserve tickets, call 617 273 1558, or visit our Student Matinee page.
- Thursday, March 21 at 10am (Student Matinee performance)
- Saturday, March 30 at 2pm
For blind and low-vision patrons. Braille programs available. Contact Meg O'Brien, Manager of Education Operations, at firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets and information. Learn more about access programs at the Huntington.
- Sunday, March 24 following the 2pm performance
A post-performance talk exploring the context and significance of A Raisin In The Sun.