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 home ownership. 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?"