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A Raisin in the Sun

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There is no more timely play to perform this metaphor for current appalling efforts to reinstate ethnic apartheid and expulsions than A Raisin in the Sun. What some people decry as an egregious “stuffing” of generations into a one-or-two bedroom apartment can be attributed to the poor circumstances of the inhabitants. This play describes how, even when those circumstances change, social forces often prevent people of color from bettering themselves.

Directed with panache by Gregg T. Daniel, the traditional three-act play becomes a fast-moving two acts chronicling the efforts of a hard-working matriarch (Saundra McClain) to provide a new home for her family after years of living in an over-crowded apartment. She must not only battle outside forces, however; her son, Walter Lee’s misguided street smarts (performed by a taut Ben Cain) causes him to sink most of his mother’s windfall into a scheme to buy a liquor store. The ultimate indignity arrives when the “welcoming” committee (Bert Emmett as Karl Lindner) tries to buy-off the family to keep the surrounding neighborhood white.

Any production of a play, no matter how well written, lends itself to a director’s vision and his actors’ interpretations.  In ANW’s production, McClain as Mama plays the long-suffering stereotypical matriarch without sentiment. The result pays off when she goads Walter Lee into a difficult moral decision that he is not prepared to make. But his wife, Ruth (Toya Turner), who has spent the majority of the play in conflict with him, finally gets a husband she can admire.

Daughter Beneatha (Sarah Hollis) seems rather ridiculous when she begins to “try on” cultural trappings of Africa and its traditions. When originally performed on Broadway, this feature reflected a nascent flowering of black American identity that ultimately produced the civil rights movement, and it was then a revelation.

Director Daniel’s production wouldn’t be quite as potent without its worn-around-the-edges look of Stephanie Kerley Swartz’s jutting set (the lace curtained alcove, in particular), Garry Lennon’s detailed late-50s costuming with wigs by April Metcalf, or straight-forward lighting by Stacy McKinney Norr. Jeff Gardner provides incidental music and sound design.

Although Raisin has enjoyed a renaissance in the last two years, this stellar production tops the list for its subtle re-imagining of this important American story.

A Raisin in the Sun performs in repertory with Shakespeare’s Henry V through April 8th; later in April, the classic Noises Off! joins the repertory through May 20, 2018,  at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107. See www.anoisewithin.org for complete schedule. Tickets from $42.00 with Student Rush and Group rates available. Phone (626) 356-3100 (ext. 1) or online at www.anoisewithin.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.