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A Raisin in the Sun

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With its title taken from Langston Hughes’ poem A Dream Deferred, the late Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun, made its Broadway debut in 1959.  Its plot is centered on one African-American family on Chicago’s Southside.
As the staging (currently in production at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, in Culver City, through February 19) begins, the Youngers – a Black family – are on the eve of receiving a $10,000 check from deceased patriarch Walter Lee Younger, Sr.’s life insurance policy. Lena Younger, the family’s matriarch (a compelling Kim Staunton), plans to purchase a house with the proceeds. Home ownership would fulfill the dream she and Walter, Sr. had long shared.

But Walter, Jr. (an intense Kevin Carroll) has a different idea of how the money should be used. At 35 years old, and with his five family members (including a young son played by the lively Brandon David Brown) residing in the tight quarters of a two-bedroom rental, Walter, Jr. wants more in life than what he’s able to provide as a low-paid chauffeur to a wealthy white man.
His father’s death benefit can clear the way for Walter, Jr. to pursue an opportunity to turn away from the dead-end road on which he perceives himself to be. Walter, Jr., in partnership with two other men (Ellis E. Williams is impactful as the sole partner shown onstage), wants to use the ten grand inheritance to purchase a liquor store.
Of course, such an investment would be sinful in the devoutly God-fearing Mama Younger’s mind. Further, Walter, Jr.’s sister, Beneatha (the charmingly glib Kenya Alexander), has her heart and eyes set on attending medical school. Mama Younger and Walter, Jr.’s wife, Ruth (a forceful Deidre Henry), are all for that. This leaves Walter, Jr. without familial support in his ambition to become a legitimate liquor merchant.
But the money, after all, is Mama Younger’s to spend or invest as she sees fit. Being the putative head of the family, Mama chooses to make the home purchase. What a blow that is to Walter, Jr. But a greater surprise is in store for the Youngers (and for us in the audience) when a well-suited White man, Karl Linder (a benignly calculating Scott Mosenson), from the neighborhood where the Youngers bought their new house, comes calling with an offer he hopes the Youngers won’t refuse.
Hansberry’s script is an emotional expose; it lends a visceral understanding to the experience of racial prejudice and ethnic discrimination during the mid-century Civil Rights struggle. In the characters of George Muchinson (a tightly wound Jason Dirden) and Joseph Asagai (the convincingly Nigerian Amad Jackson) – both suitors to the coming of age Beneatha – Hansberry gives us insight into the clash between class and nationalities that exits (or existed) within the diverse group of people in America who identify themselves as Black.
Directed with ample amounts of earthiness, as well as an inspiring arch of nobleness, by Phylicia Rashad, A Raisin in the Sun is a play taken from the pages of the American experience. With a mise en scene that unobtrusively conveys the material struggle of the American underclass – cramped accommodations, mounting interpersonal tensions, limited proximities and possibilities, and perennial money concerns – “A Raisin in the Sun” is played out on a homey  set design (by Michael Ganio) that is kept  meticulously neat, while being decidedly urban and unglamorous. The costuming (by Ruth E. Carter) also suggests the workaday conservatism held by those who are employed, but with low-incomes.
A Raisin in the Sun is a production of the Ebony Repertory Theatre. In association with the Center Theatre Group (which includes not only the Kirk Douglas Theatre, but also the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre, both housed at downtown Los Angeles’ Music Center), A Raisin in the Sun is being staged in conjunction with Bruce Norris’ 2010 Pulitzer Prize-awarded Claybourne  Park.
The latter show plays at the Mark Taper Forum through February 19, and it’s the story of the house bought by the Youngers. It takes place in two time periods: one just before the Youngers buy the place, and then fifty years subsequent to the Younger’s purchase of the home. Together these stagings are advertised by CTG as “A Special Masterpiece Event.”
A Raisin in the Sun continues at the Kirk Douglas Theatre – 9820 Washington Boulevard, Culver City – through February 19. Show times are Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. Saturdays and at 1 p.m. on Sundays. There are also Sunday performances at 6:30 p.m. For reservations, dial (213) 628 – 2772. For online ticketing and further information (including details regarding Claybourne Park), visit www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.

 

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.