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I Didn’t Know That!

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is playing on Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage from October 28 to November 20. Here are some Raisin-related facts that you may not have known:

 

A Raisin in the Sun was originally titled A Crystal Stair, an allusion to a line in the poem “Mother to Son,” when Lorraine Hansberry began writing the play in 1957.

Producers Philip Rose and David Cogan took over a year to raise enough money from 150 investors to mount the original run of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959.

Columbia Pictures had hired Lorraine Hansberry to write the screenplay for A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry ended up writing two screenplays, only to have both rejected as being too controversial by studio executives.

The completed film version of A Raisin in the Sun, which was released in 1961, had cut out over a third of Hansberry’s original screenplay as well as downplayed the Youngers’ poor living conditions. Hansberry’s opening with Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” superimposed over a montage of scenes in Southside Chicago’s ghetto was one of those cuts; and his poem, in fact, appears nowhere in the film.

Lorraine Hansberry was the godmother to Nina Simone’s daughter Lisa.

The FBI kept a file on Lorraine Hansberry due to her social activism.

A Raisin in the Sun inspired a musical, Raisin, in 1973. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Greta Oglesby, who will play Mama (Lena Younger) in Park Square Theatre’s production, was the understudy for Phylicia Rashad as Mama when A Raisin in the Sun was revived on Broadway in 2004. It was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

Director Warren C. Bowles considered actor Theo Langason for both the roles of George Murchison and Joseph Asagai–a wealthy young black man and a poor Nigerian college student, respectively–who want to marry Beneatha Younger (Mama’s daughter). Langason was ultimately cast as Asagai.

 

oglesby-greta-2016-bw          langason-theo-2015

Greta Oglesby and Theo Langason

 

Sources:

http://www.enotes.com/topics/raisin-in-the-sun/themes

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorraine_Hansberry

http://dx.dol.org/10.1080/0033563042000206790

http://parksquaretheatre.org/wp-content/uploads/Raisin-in-the-Sun-Study-Guide-10-9.pdf

Lindner’s Line

Robert Gardner, who plays Lindner, with Director Warren C. Bowles and all cast members (in background) on Opening Night Photograph by Connie Shaver

Robert Gardner, who plays Karl Lindner, with Director Warren C. Bowles and some other cast members (in background) on Opening Night
Photograph by Connie Shaver

 

Cast members for Park Square Theatre’s production of A Raisin in the Sun, playing on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage from October 28 to November 20, were invited to tell about the line(s) in the play that most resonates with them, a poem or line(s) from a poem that resonates with them or a personal reflection related to the play.

Robert Gardner, who plays Karl Lindner, a representative from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, gave the following response:

I’m the only white guy in A Raisin in the Sun, playing the only white character, Karl Lindner.  The role is small but crucial as he presents the Younger family (and particularly Walter) with their dilemma at the end of the play:  accept money for staying in their old home in a black neighborhood or take the risks of moving into a white neighborhood.

Lindner’s key line for me, as he makes his offer to buy the Youngers out of their new house, is: “I want you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it.” 

Well, of course it does enter into it, as is perfectly clear to the Youngers and, I’m sure, to the audience.  But I believe Lindner himself believes that he is being honest when he says this.  I also believe that his unacknowledged racism is something we all have to contend with.  And there’s a seductive plausibility to his argument that “people get along better, have more of a common understanding of the life of the community, when they share a common background.” While this may be true (and it has been the guiding principle of many communities, not just white ones), when it is adopted as a principle of exclusion, it is a formula for stagnation that denies communities the ability to grow and improve.

 

Robert Gardner as Lindner in a rehearsal with Greta Oglesby, who plays Mama Photograph by Connie Shaver

Robert Gardner as Lindner in a rehearsal with Greta Oglesby, who plays Mama
Photograph by Connie Shaver

 

Theatre That Builds Futures: A Benefit for Africa Classroom Connection

On Saturday, November 5, Africa Classroom Connection (ACC) holds a benefit at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Stage in Saint Paul’s historic Hamm Building. Support ACC by joining in this delightful afternoon of events:

  • Doors open at 1 pm for an African Marketplace, selling beautiful handcrafted jewelry, baskets, wooden masks and more from South Africa.
  • Let the show begin at 2 pm! Don’t miss seeing the powerful American classic, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. The play was the first written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway, winning the 1959 New York Drama Critics Award.
  • After the performance, enjoy a South African wine and cheese reception and participate in a brief live auction, featuring uniquely enticing items such as a South African Wine Tasting for 10.
Director Warren C. Bowles with a model of Lance Brockman's set design for A Raisin in the Sun Photograph by Connie Shaver

Director Warren C. Bowles with a model of Lance Brockman’s set design for A Raisin in the Sun
Photograph by Connie Shaver

Purchase tickets ($65, $40 tax-deductible) through Park Square Theatre’s Ticket Office at 651.291.7005 (mention “Africa Classroom Connection fundraiser”) or online at http//parksquaretheatre.org/box-office/special events/order-form-special-benefit-performance-of-a-raisin-in-the-sun/

Generous sponsors* have paid for all event expenses, so 100 percent of your contributions go directly toward building classrooms!

Questions? Contact Claire at 612.767.4430 or info@africaclassroomconnection.org

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What is Africa Classroom Connection (ACC)?

Africa Classroom Connection (ACC) is an American nonprofit organization that builds schools in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Its vision is that every child in KwaZulu-Natal has the opportunity for an excellent education. The program was started in 1977 by the Rotary Club in a small rural town Eshowe, South Africa. Amazingly, the organization has built over 3,000 classrooms in 800 schools, more than the government.

It’s a self-help partnership: the community must raise a five percent deposit, then donors cover the remainder to build each classroom. As a result, the community respects and cares for its school. Each school’s simple standard classroom design ensures that common materials and local labor can be used. That local labor develops income and skills in the community. The government maintains and staffs the schools. A local Steering Committee makes all decisions about where need is greatest, and provides evidence and audits to ensure international accountability. ACC is volunteer-lead, with all administrative costs generously paid for by its board members, so 100% of contributions go directly to construction.

Board member Tammie Follett and 16 others just returned from a Learning Tour to KwaZulu-Natal to visit classrooms and communities in need of schools. “One day,” Follett said, “we met 630 primary school students. We described our careers and they asked us questions such as ‘What did you study? What do I have to do to be a doctor? Lawyer? Teacher? Electrician?’ We aim to inspire and inform them about the power of education. We hope they explore the possibilities!”

The traveler group also brought home beautiful handcrafts available in an African Marketplace at the benefit performance of A Raisin in the Sun at Park Square Theatre on the afternoon of November 5. Please come enjoy great theatre and support powerful education through Africa Classroom Connection www.africaclassroomconnection.org! Event sponsors include *Books For Africa, Merrill Lynch, Presentation Wiz, Thomson Reuters and Z Wines USA.

Cast member Theo Langason looks at set designer Lance Brockman's drawing. On November 5, see how art can also open doors to education. Photograph by Connie Shaver

A Raisin in the Sun cast member Theo Langason looks at set designer Lance Brockman’s drawing. On November 5, join us at Park Square Theatre when art opens doors to education.
Photograph by Connie Shaver

An Interview with Warren C. Bowles, Director of A Raisin in the Sun

Warren C. Bowles, fresh from winning an Ivey Award for his direction of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at Minnesota Jewish Theatre, now comes to Park Square Theatre to direct the American classic A Raisin in the Sun on the intimate Andy Boss Thrust Stage, where audience members will feel up close and personal with the Younger family.

Of the play, Bowles says, “Issues here go beyond race.”

Check out his video interview below

 

A Raisin in the Sun – Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage – October 28 to November 20

The Realistic Joneses: Featuring Eric “Pogi” Sumangil

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of The Realistic Joneses Blog Series, let us introduce you to Eric “Pogi” Sumangil:

sumangil-eric-pogi-color

ROLE: John Jones, husband of Pony Jones, late 30s-40s

DIRECTOR JOEL SASS’ COMMENT:

When Eric accepted the role of John Jones, I joked that it only took 15 years for us to get a chance to do a show together. I’m so glad it’s finally happening! I first met Eric at an audition when we were both quite new to town and have always enjoyed his auditions and seeing him onstage in other productions. The character of John Jones is a great one: he’s rather zany, a bit of a trickster and the most peculiar, yet charming, guy in the neighborhood. But he’s in the grip of an incredible crisis, a curve-ball life has thrown at him, and discovering what that is all about is one of the great discoveries for the audience.

QUESTION FOR POGI:

In the play, John is very deadpan funny but actually quite often serious about what he’s saying.  What challenges you in playing him?

One of the things I’m bringing to the role of John is that I think I’m the first person of color to play the role. That doesn’t necessarily make it more challenging by any means, but it’s something I’m aware of as an actor. John and Pony in our production are an interracial couple, so I’m curious to see if or how that might affect things as the story unfolds.

Truth be told, I actually have a pretty dry sense of humor like John–people sometimes don’t know if/when I’m joking. I’m a fan of comedy, and there are some great dry/deadpan comedians out there, from the classic deadpan of Buster Keaton to Bill Murray and Stephen Wright in the 80s on down.

There’s a great standup comic named Tig Notaro who had a famous set that was recorded just a few days after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Around that time, her mother suddenly passed away. Tig had also gone through a bad breakup and almost died herself from C.diff, an intestinal infection, all in a matter of a couple months. So she gets up on stage days after being told she has cancer and just starts talking about it. Talking about her pain through comedy. And it’s amazing and honest and vulnerable and smart and dry and cathartic. And that’s what I think is the challenge of playing John; I think there are moments where his sense of humor might be hiding something; but more importantly, I think comedy is his way of trying to connect and be understood and find some catharsis.

Comedy is a powerful thing. The court jester was the only person who could openly criticize the monarchy without losing his head (if he was funny enough). You can speak great truths through comedy, and that’s what’s interesting and tricky about John. He often plays with the idea of what you’re supposed to say in particular situations, so it’s almost like he’s satirizing on his feet. I know people who are great improv and sketch comedians, but I’ve never considered myself quick-witted enough to be that kind of funny.

I worked for years doing sexual assault prevention, and our presentation was created in part by a former standup comic who actually got her doctorate studying how humor affects one’s willingness to talk about taboo topics. So we learned to use humor strategically while talking about something that was really serious.

There’s a comedy term called the way homer; it’s a joke that you don’t laugh at until you’re thinking about it on the way home. Using comedy to talk about really serious topics is sometimes like that; you get the audience to laugh initially, but you’re really planting the seed of something they’ll think about later. It’s a tightrope to be sure, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Mu Performing Arts: tot: The Untold Yet Spectacular Story of (a Filipino) Hulk Hogan; La Jolla Playhouse: The Seven; Children’s Theatre Company: The Monkey King; Chanhassen Dinner Theatres: Altar Boyz; Mixed Blood Theatre: Bill of (W)rights; Frank Theatre: The Cradle Will Rock Training B.A., Communication; B.A., Asian Studies, St. John’s University; The Actors Workout Awards/Other Many Voices Fellow 2009-’10, ‘10-’11, Playwrights’ Center; 2002 Fil-Minnesotan Association Excellence in the Arts Award Upcoming Projects Jungle Theater: The Oldest Boy

 The Realistic Joneses – Area Premiere – Andy Boss Thrust Stage – September 23 to October 16

The Realistic Joneses: Featuring Jane Froiland

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of The Realistic Joneses Blog Series, let us introduce you to Jane Froiland:

froiland-jane-color

ROLE: Pony Jones, wife of John Jones, late 30s-40s

DIRECTOR JOEL SASS’ COMMENT:

Jane really stood out for me in a production of Clifford Odetts’ Rocket to the Moon a few years back; she played a young, idealistic woman who had little life experience but a great belief in her own capacity to achieve her dreams; it was a really effective (and deceptively difficult) character to play. So is the character of Pony Jones, who on the surface seems to be scattered, fragile and perhaps not the brightest bulb on the block—but is, in fact, deeply intuitive and empathetic.

QUESTION FOR JANE:

Pony claims, “I’m a totally unreliable person who’s filled with terror.” Do you believe that when you play her? Why or why not?

In my interpretation, when Pony says that, it is not because it is the absolute truth, but it’s what she FEARS is true. I think that Pony is more aware of her faults than she lets on. I don’t think she is so extreme as to be completely unreliable and terror-filled, but I do think that there is also an element of that in her which she fights against. I think we all have parts of ourselves that we are embarrassed or even ashamed about; and when you enter into a marriage, those things become nearly impossible to hide. Like, it’s kind of part of the deal that you are completely known to one other person, right? Or am I being idealistic? And yet, in this play, I feel like every character is struggling to really let themselves be known to their spouse. I feel like that line by Pony is her attempt to let herself be known.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rock n Roll Representative Theatre Mixed Blood Theatre: An Octoroon; Children’s Theatre Company: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Gremlin Theatre: Rocket to the Moon; Ten Thousand Things: Doubt; Jungle Theater: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Walking Shadow Theatre Company: Compleat Female Stage Beauty TV/Film Documentary Now!, IFC Network;Theater People (web series) Training B.A., Theatre University of Minnesota Awards/Other 2014 Best Actress in a Drama, Lavender Magazine; 2011 Ivey Award for Outstanding Overall Production for Doubt; 2012 Ivey Award for Outstanding Overall Production for Compleat Female Stage Beauty

Jane Froiland (center) with Pogi Sumangil (left) and JC Cutler (right) in a rehearsal. Photograph by Connie Shaver

Jane Froiland (center) with Pogi Sumangil (left) and JC Cutler (right) at an early rehearsal.
Photograph by Connie Shaver

The Realistic Joneses – Area Premiere – Andy Boss Thrust Stage – September 23 to October 16

The Realistic Joneses: Featuring JC Cutler

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of The Realistic Joneses Blog Series, let us introduce you to JC Cutler:

cutler-jc-color-2016

ROLE: Bob Jones, husband of Jennifer Jones, 40s

DIRECTOR JOEL SASS’ COMMENT:

I’m so delighted to finally be doing another show with JC.  We had a blast together working on Shining City and Hitchcock Blonde at the Jungle, and I know he’ll bring a depth of humanity and surprising humor to playing the role of Bob Jones.

QUESTION FOR JC:

In what way is Bob a realistic Jones?

I think Bob is realistic in that he’s living in the moment, figuring how to get to the next moment from day to day. All the characters in the play are doing that.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Cyrano, Red, The Odyssey, Democracy, Copenhagen, Born Yesterday Representative Theatre Guthrie Theater: A Christmas Carol; Guthrie Theatre/Berkeley Repertory Theatre/Tricycle Theatre (London): Tiny Kushner; Jungle Theater: Shining City; La Jolla Playhouse: The Deception; Florida Stage: Pavilion; Mixed Blood Theatre: Pajama Game TV/ Film North Country, Ishtar, All My Children; various commercial and voice work Training B.A., Carleton College; The Juilliard Theatre School (four-year diploma) Awards Friars Foundation Award; Suria and Michel St. Denis award

JC Cutler with Angela Timberman in a rehearsal. Photograph by Connie Shaver

JC Cutler with Angela Timberman at the first read-though of the play. Photo by Connie Shaver

The Realistic Joneses – Area Premiere – Andy Boss Thrust Stage – September 23 to October 16

The Realistic Joneses: Featuring Angela Timberman

As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast of The Realistic Joneses Blog Series, let us introduce you to Angela Timberman:

timberman-angela-2016-color

ROLE: Jennifer, Bob Jones’ wife, 40s

DIRECTOR JOEL SASS’ COMMENT:

Angie is well-known locally and especially for her memorable turns in musical theater and comedy.  But she has a rich, dramatic dimension as well, which I don’t think gets enough opportunity to show itself on our stages.  A role like Jennifer Jones is perfect for someone like Angie because, while the character is extremely funny, her humor is like a band-aid that covers some deep scars of sadness and anger.

QUESTION FOR ANGELA:

How you see Jennifer Jones now will likely evolve as you go through rehearsals, but do you have an idea of how you may initially approach your role?

I think Jennifer is a natural caregiver. That’s her “super power.” She’s got a good heart. It’s also her “feet of clay.” When duty calls, she’s there; and I think, like all of us, when we’re good at something (especially when a problem arises that requires our “super power”), we can go overboard. She has to learn to let a crisis ride itself out without her help. Or recognize when a person (particularly her husband) doesn’t need her support every moment. When she overdoes it, she loses herself. I want the audience to see her discover who she really is, what her relationship with her husband is, what her fascination with her male neighbor is, as she navigates the fallout from this disease that’s entered their lives. One person can’t fix everything or be everything to another person. We’re taught that about marriage, and it’s a fallacy.

As subtle as the ending seems in this play, I think these characters are very different people in the end. Maybe, even happier. Or at least more content and wiser.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Sons of the Prophet, The Sisters Rosensweig, Painting Churches, Good People Representative Theatre Guthrie Theater, Jungle Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, History Theatre, Illusion Theater, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

Angela Timberman with JC Cutler at a rehearsal. Photograph by Connie Shaver

Angela Timberman with JC Cutler at a rehearsal.
Photograph by Connie Shaver

The Realistic Joneses – Area Premiere – Andy Boss Thrust Stage – September 23 to October 16

 

The Source is the Words

Palabras Rehearsal 2          Palabras Rehearsal

Rehearsal for The Palabras Project

Recently I was in the audience watching the post-show discussion of Calendar Girls when Charity Jones, who plays Chris, the mastermind behind the nude calendar idea, spoke up about the need to support smaller production companies that do great work as well.  With that in mind, Park Square Theatre introduces to you Other Tiger Production’s The Palabras Project on its Andy Boss Thrust Stage from July 8 to 17.

“Palabras” itself means “words” in Spanish; and it is specifically the words of Federico Garcia Lorca’s play, Blood Wedding, that is the inspiration for The Palabras Project.  Yet the project itself features an amalgamation of various art forms, including theatre, music, dance, and puppetry, which suggest a reliance on further words — namely, “collaboration,” “passion” and “trust” — to make it possible for Other Tiger Productions to create the grand spectacle that we shall see, hear, and feel.

We use words every day to impart seeds of ideas, plant them to grow, then lovingly tend them.  But the process itself requires a measure of letting go, which is exactly what Other Tiger founders Jessica Huang and Ricardo Vazquez did for The Palabras Project According to Vazquez, each artist read Blood Wedding then explored and created around what spoke to them in the play.  Collaborators Susana di Palma, Maria Isa, Armando Gutierrez G., Gustavo Boada and Dario Tangelson were given artistic freedom to tackle their medium of expertise then repeatedly came together as a group to form the overall production.

In rehearsals, the artists kept constant touch with words, sharing those from movie lines, lyrics, poetry, etc. that inspired them, always circling back to their connection to the script itself.  Vazquez described their creative process:  “Every idea should be tried, even though most ideas may not work.  We tear down, try again, build up again to be better.”  All the while, the source of inspiration — the words of Lorca — remained the constant touchstone.

So I am not surprised that, as part of the show’s run, two free readings of Blood Wedding are also scheduled:  one in Spanish on Thursday, July 7, 7:30 pm; another in English on Thursday, July 14, 7:30 pm. The readings will be done by bilingual talents from the Twin Cities Latino community.

 

(Also refer to the June 28 blog, “Spanish Immersion: The Palabras Project Comes to Park Square,” and look forward to the upcoming blog, “Chasing the Tiger,” to learn more about Other Tiger Productions.)

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