Description of A Raisin in the Sun, penned by Playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Note: The run of A Raisin in the Sun at Celebration Arts Theatre in Midtown Sacramento has been extended to March 31.
Members of the Sacramento Women’s Action Network (SWAN), a local giving circle, recently attended a performance of A Raisin in the Sun at Celebration Arts to celebrate SWAN’s 15th Anniversary.
See Related Posts: Sacramento Women’s Action Network – SWAN and Celebration Arts – Midtown Sacramento
I was familiar with the story line of A Raisin in the Sun as I had really enjoyed the 1961 film version starring Sidney Poitier. What a great movie! This was, however, my first time seeing A Raisin in the Sun performed live.
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Lorraine Hansberry – Playwright
Lorraine Hansberry, the granddaughter of a freed slave, was born in 1930 in Chicago. A Raisin in the Sun opened in 1959 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, making Hansberry the first African-American woman to pen a play produced on Broadway.
At 29 years old, Hansberry was also the first black playwright and youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award. Hansberry died of cancer at age 34.
One can’t help but wonder what Hansberry might have achieved if she had not died at such a young age.
A Raisin in the Sun
The original title of A Raisin in the Sun was The Crystal Stair, but it was later renamed for a line from a Langston Hughes poem – “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”
The play revolves around the hopes and dreams of the Younger family, an extended African-American family living together on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s.
The members of the family anxiously await the delivery of a $10,000 check – the proceeds of a life insurance policy payable to Lena Younger (aka Mama), the widow. The extended family includes a son (Walter) and daughter (Beneatha), and Walter’s wife (Ruth) and their child (Travis).
Each adult in the family has ideas as to how the windfall should be spent.
Hopes and Dreams
Mama wants to buy a house so they can move out of the cramped, bug-infested apartment. Buying a home had been something she and her husband had dreamed about – but never achieved.
Walter wants to “invest” in a liquor store with friends, envisioning ownership of a business as a means to secure the family’s financial future.
Ruth tends to agree with Mama. She dreams of less crowded living conditions and a better life for her son who sleeps on the living room couch.
Beneatha’s dream is to become a doctor. Medical school is within her grasp with the means to pay her medical school tuition.
Conflict and tension among family member heightens as the days pass. Mama, a religious woman, has refused to use the life insurance money the fund the liquor store “investment.” She decides that the best thing for the family is to put a down payment on a house. Walter is upset, so she relinquishes control of the remainder of the money to show her son that she trusts him. Mama instructs Walter to put funds in the bank for his sister’s medical school tuition, and then oversee the rest of the money. Walter never makes it to the bank.
The down payment made by Mama is on a house in an all-white neighborhood. A representative of the neighborhood association visits when Mama is out and offers to buy them out. Walter refuses. After his so-called “friend” disappears along with the money Walter entrusted to him he reconsiders the buyout offer. Other family members are aghast.
Finally, after considerable strife, the family resolves to make the move. Despite the uncertainty, they hope to achieve a better future.
The Celebration Arts Theatre production of A Raisin in the Sun was well done. That evening at the theatre we learned that the play was three hours long (including one intermission)! Several of us wondered aloud if we would be able to stay alert until the end of the play – but that was not a problem.
The actors playing the main characters – James Ellison III (Walter), KT Masala (Lena), Brooklynn Solomon (Ruth) and Alexandra Barthel (Beneatha) – all gave strong performances.
A Raisin in the Sun tells a compelling story, and it was evident that the members of the audience were caught up in the tale. When the Younger Family decides to move into the house, despite the hurdles they will face, there was a collective sigh of relief among the audience.
To Sum Up
Recommended: Yes. You won’t be bored nor fall asleep!
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Did you see the Celebration Arts Theatre production of A Raisin in the Sun? What would you add?
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