Park Square recently unveiled it’s new season for 2016-2017 and one of the shows that most excites me is Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. The story about a family just trying to survive and get ahead it such a powerful one that it resonates as not just an American tale, but a human one. Of course the family at the center of it all is African American, allowing the play to delve even deeper into themes that become as universal as they are unique to the history of African Americans in our country.
This past winter I was in a production of Clybourne Park at Yellow Tree Theatre, which for those who don’t know, is set in the same world as Raisin, only after the events as told in Hansberry’s play. It’s a brilliant script that picks up the mantle for the 21st century and scathingly shows us that issues such as racism, gentrification, entitlement and civil rights continue to nip at our heels no matter how many steps we take forward.
Among the many great things to come out of that experience was just the reason to re-read A Raisin in the Sun (like you need a reason!) and I couldn’t put it down. I remember reading it in high school and definitely not having the same reaction. Obviously I my tastes and sensibilities have matured since I was sixteen but also so has our culture, where minority rights are deservedly back at the forefront of our social narrative. As a white guy, it’s just been inherent that I live with certain blinders on, but with art such as A Raisin in the Sun, those blinders can start to come off and I can do my part to help make the world a better place.
That’s why A Raisin in the Sun is a great play, but the reason I believe it’s a masterpiece of the American stage is how it gets it message across. It’s an extremely well written play! Yes, the central them is that of the African American experience but it is told in such a way that it instantly becomes recognizable to anyone who has ever had a family, had to move, had to deal with life insurance and wills, been taken advantage of, etc. Within this frame, the Younger family’s struggles become relatable to everyone and in this way, it begins to create the social change I’m sure Hansberry was ultimately striving for.
Nearly sixty years after it premiered we are still freakin’ fighting for universal rights and I think there’s a lot of frustration that the years continue to roll without total victory. Again as a white guy, when I was feeling the most frustrated with my seemingly inability to relate, I picked up A Raisin in the Sun, and I got it. Sixty years ago, now, whenever, the story of the Youngers became my story and in that way my whole perspective changed. I have never seen a production of the play so I really look forward to Park Square’s this October-November and I hope you do too.