Perseverance Brings “Raisin” Back in the Sun
Sequel “Clybourne Park” gets special staged reading
ANCHORAGE - Anchorage theater audiences are raving about "A Raisin in the Sun," the classic American drama by Lorraine Hansberry now running at the Performing Arts Center.
It’s a production of the nationally renowned Perseverance Theatre Company of Juneau – which also collaborated with Anchorage's Cyrano’s Theatre Company for a staged reading of the sequel to "Raisin" – "Clybourne Park."
Together, they offer a look at how the theme of racial conflicts and deferred dreams remains relevant in Obama’s America.
Lorraine Hansberry was just in her 20s when she wrote “A Raisin in the Sun” and became the first black woman to see a play of hers produced on Broadway and win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.
Following its 1959 debut, “A Raisin in the Sun" became a movie with Sidney Poitier in the now-iconic role of Walter Lee Younger, a chauffeur in Chicago who dreams of a better life for his family.
Walter Lee’s frustrations bring him into conflict with his mother, Lena.
"It's dangerous, son," she warns him as he prepares to leave their cramped apartment. "What's dangerous?" he asks.
"When a man goes outside his home to look for peace."
"Then why can't there ever be no peace in this house?"
The play takes its title from “A Dream Deferred' by the black poet Langston Hughes:
“What happens to a dream deferred?
Although the play was concurrent with the civil rights movement half a century ago, actors in this production say it has relevance today.
Says Jamil Mangan, who plays Joseph Asagai: "It really speaks to us now because there is to me, I feel like there's a sense that the American dream is slipping away from us."
"It has to do with people wanting more for themselves and realizing if I want more for myself, I can achieve it, through hard work and determination," says Keith McCoy, playing Walter Lee.
The story is driven by insurance money paid to the family in the wake of the patriarch's death.
“Do you know what this money could do for us?" Walter Lee, who wants to open a liquor store, demands of his mother.
"When they get the money, everyone has their own dreams,” McCoy says. “No one's thinking together. Everyone's fighting against each other saying this is what I want to do with the money, this is what should happen with the money."
"So now money is life,” Ruth sighs. “Once upon a time freedom used to be life. Now it's money." Walter Lee responds: "Look, Mama, it's always been money."
And the tension goes up when Walter Lee's wife, Ruth, finds out she's pregnant.