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A Raisin in the Sun

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Transcript of A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun
Meet the Cast
Set in the self-segregated world of 1950s Chicago,
A Raisin in the Sun
centers on the Youngers, an African-American family. They are about to receive a check for $10,000.00, coming from the deceased Mr. Younger’s life insurance policy.
Everyone has plans for the money. The matriarch of the family, Mama Lena, wants to buy a house to fulfill a dream she shared with her late husband; but her son, Walter Lee, would rather use the money to invest in a liquor store with his friends, believing his investment will solve the family’s financial problems.
Ruth, Walter’s wife, wants to live in a house with more space and more opportunities for their son, Travis. Beneatha — Mama’s daughter and Walter’s sister — aspires to attend medical school and wants to use the money for her tuition. She also wishes her family members were not so interested in joining the white world and more interested in finding their identity in their African past. The Youngers clash over their competing dreams and reveal their hopes and fears for the future. Finally, when Mama puts a deposit on a house in an all-white community, they are visited by a soon to-be-neighbor, a representative of the white homeowners. He offers the family money if they would be willing to stay out of the neighborhood.

The Youngers must then decide: do they stay in their old apartment or move?

A Raisin in the Sun

Versions of
A Raisin in the Sun
Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
[Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?]
Historical Background of the Play
The Playwright
Lorraine Hansberry
Lorraine Hansberry was born on May 19, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois.

Playwright, author, activist. The granddaughter of a freed slave, and the youngest by seven years of four children.

Hansberry’s father was a successful real estate broker, and her mother was a schoolteacher. Her parents contributed large sums of money to the NAACP and the Urban League.
By Lorraine Hansberry
The Short & Sweet
Prezi created by Amanda Espinoza and Brian Eckert for Two River Theater

She grew up in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Hansberry and her family moved to a white neighborhood when she was eight years old, where they were met with violence and hostility from the neighborhood whites.

After several attacks, the Hansberrys were almost evicted from their home by the Illinois courts. Lorraine's father and lawyers from the NAACP brought a civil lawsuit,
Hansberry vs. Lee
, which eventually reached the Supreme Court where the eviction was overturned.
Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison. While at school, she changed her major from painting to writing, and after two years decided to drop out and move to New York City.

She worked part-time as a waitress and cashier, and wrote in her spare time. By 1956, she quit her jobs and committed full-time to her writing.

During this time, Hansberry wrote
The Crystal Stair
, a play about a struggling black family in Chicago, which was later renamed
A Raisin in the Sun
, a line from a Langston Hughes poem.

The play opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, and was a great success, having a run of 530 performances. It was the first play produced on Broadway by an African-American woman. At the age of 28, Hansberry was the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award.

Schooling and Career
Personal Life
In 1963, Hansberry became active in the Civil Rights Movement. Along with other influential people, including Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, and James Baldwin, Hansberry met with then attorney general Robert Kennedy to test his position on civil rights.

Hansberry met Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish songwriter, on a picket line and the two were married in 1953. Hansberry and Nemiroff divorced in 1962, though they continued to work together.

Lorraine Hansberry’s voice was silenced in 1964 when she died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 34.

Keeping her legacy alive, Robert Nemiroff, compiled her writings in T
o Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words
in 1969.
Langston Hughes, an African American poet, wrote this poem in 1951. Eight years later, Lorraine Hansberry would use the poem in the title of her play. Lorraine Hansberry began writing the play when she was just 26 years old, and drew on her own family’s experience for the premise of
A Raisin in the Sun

In 1938, when she was eight years old, her father, a successful real estate agent, bought a house in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s South Side, violating a racially restrictive covenant that prevented blacks from purchasing or leasing land in that neighborhood. Despite violent attacks by white neighbors, the Hansberrys refused to move until a court ordered them to do so. The Hansberrys' lawsuit went to the Supreme Court, which handed down a somewhat ambiguous ruling:it allowed the Hansberrys to remain on their property, but granted the citizens of the neighborhood the right to contest the covenant in court again.

The Hansberry family home (6140 S. Rhodes Ave.) was declared an historical landmark by the Chicago City Council on February 10, 2010.
In the wake of the Great Depression, half of all American homeowners were behind on their mortgages. In order to resolve the problem, Franklin Roosevelt created the Home Owners' Loan Corporation or HOLC. The Home Owners' Loan Corporation to grade and color-code neighborhoods across the country based on their suitability for aid (which itself was determined largely by the neighborhood’s racial makeup) Grade D, the lowest, was assigned to communities deemed “hazardous” and marked red on maps. These areas were overwhelmingly African-American or other minority populations.

Beginning in the 1930s, this policy mapped neighborhoods by race, significantly disadvantaging minority communities and denying them help and aid that was made readily available to other American communities. As a result, African-American communities were further disadvantaged in a culture already hugely stacked against them.

The practice of redlining ended in 1968, when the Fair Housing Act outlawed it. However, today many American business are still accused of denying home loans to customers based on race and many neighborhoods are still given inadequate resources for the same reason. Redlining as a policy may be in the past, but its echoes are felt to this day.

possess great importance in the play. “What happens to a dream deferred?” Does it “dry up like a raisin in the sun” or “explode”? This question drives the play’s plot. Each character clings to distinct dreams, which have long been deferred.

is a constant source of conflict in the Younger household. The members of the Younger family view money in different ways: a house, a career, and a new life.

Hansberry’s play draws events from her own life, such as her family’s experience with housing
in 1930s Chicago. After moving to a house in an all-white neighborhood, Hansberry’s family endured legal battles and physical threats.

Throughout the play the Youngers have their daily struggles, but unite in the end to realize their dream of buying a house. Mama (Lena) believes in the
importance of family,
and she tries to teach and remind her family of this value, just as her husband did everyday. Each member of the family is facing a different battle, but when they begin to put the family's needs before their own, they merge their individual dreams with the family’s overarching dream.

1959 Play
The play premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959. It transferred to the Belasco Theatre on October 19, 1959, and closed on June 25, 1960, after 530 total performances. Directed by Lloyd Richards.

1961 Film
In 1961, a film version of A Raisin in the Sun was released featuring its original Broadway cast of Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon, Louis Gossett, Jr. and John Fiedler. Hansberry wrote the screenplay, and the film was directed by Daniel Petrie. It was released by Columbia Pictures and Ruby Dee won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress. Both Poitier and McNeil were nominated for Golden Globe Awards, and Petrie received a special "Gary Cooper Award" at the Cannes Film Festival.

Broadway revival 2004
A revival ran on Broadway at the Royale Theatre from April 26, 2004, to July 11, 2004 at the Royale Theatre. The cast included Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan. The Made-for-TV movie was released in 2008. Both versions included some of the previously omitted scenes and the movie includes updated versions of scenes from the original screenplay.

Broadway 2014
A second revival ran on Broadway from April 3, 2014, to June 15, 2014, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The cast included Denzel Washington and Sophie Okonedo

Costume Designer:
Elivia Bovenzi
Scenic Designers:
Christopher Swader & Justin Swader
A Raisin in the Sun
Lena Younger
Played by Brenda Pressley
Walter Lee Younger
Played by Brandon J. Dirden
Ruth Younger
Played by Crystal A. Dickinson
Beneatha Younger
Played by Jasmine Batchelo
Moving Man/Mr. Johnson
Played by Andrew Binger
Moving Man
Played by David Joel Rivera
George Murchison
Played by York Walker
Played by Charlie Hudson III
Travis Younger
Played by Owen Tabaka
Played by Willie Dirden
Karl Linder
Played by Nat DeWolf
1959 Play on Broadway
1961 Film
Broadway Revival 2004
Broadway 2014 with Denzel Washington
Full transcript