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Posts Tagged Lena Younger

A Raisin in the Sun: It Feels Personal

Walter Lee Younger (Darius Dotch) yearns to fulfill his dream.
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Watching  Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun feels very personal to me. It reminds me of my own immigrant family’s struggle to get a foothold in America. Survival meant starting over with menial jobs, with the hope of rising to something better. The something better came as a better-paying job for my father and, finally from years of saving every last dime possible, a starter home in a suburb with good schools. Imagine then what it was like to be the first Chinese family on our suburban block and what it meant to stay and stand our ground.

Lena Younger receives the $10,000 life insurance payment after her husband’s death as Ruth and Travis Younger (Ivory Doublette & Calvin Zimmerman) look on.
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

In the play, three generations of an African American family, the Youngers, live under one roof in a cramped, rundown apartment in 1950s Chicago. When matriarch Lena receives a $10,000 life insurance payment after her husband’s death, the family gets the chance to fulfill some lifelong dreams, including homeownership in a better neighborhood. Imagine then what it will be like for them to be the first black family in the all-white neighborhood of Clybourne Park.

Karl Lindner (Robert Gardner) from the Clybourne Park neighborhood association (aka “The Welcoming Committee”) visits with Ruth and Walter Lee Younger (Ivory Doublette & Darius Dotch).
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Watching A Raisin in the Sun feels very personal to me. It reminds me of my own immigrant family’s struggle to get a foothold in America. What do you think that felt like? Try this: Imagine looking out the window to see a group of teenage boys surrounding your father when he comes home from work. Imagine the deep dents in your front door from surprise rock-throwing attacks. Imagine the sound of pebbles skimming across your living room window that may or may not break at any moment. Imagine disgusting objects being tossed into your backyard. Imagine the derogatory remarks from police officers who you know will not protect you.

In the play, three generations of an African American family, the Youngers, plan to finally live under one roof in their very own house, realizing what they will face–how unwelcomed they will be. Imagine what it’s like to fight for dignity as one dreams of something better in a society that devalues you. Can you imagine what it takes to stand your ground?

 

NOTE: Tickets for A Raisin in the Sun are very limited. More information here.

 

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

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