Recent UNC Greensboro alumna and Triad Stage dramaturg Kamilah Bush ’15 knows full well the historical significance of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.”
“This play is where you start when it comes to contemporary American black theater,” she says.
Triad Stage mounted the show this week, with several UNCG students and alumni in the cast and a creative team that includes UNCG faculty Jim Wren and Christine Morris. Bush has served as literary analyst, researcher and critical questioner, guiding the cast and creative team in navigating the play’s era and historical significance.
The story focuses on a black family living in a south side Chicago neighborhood in the 1950s. They are negotiating plans for a large forthcoming insurance check, following the death of their father, and deciding if they will buy a house in a white neighborhood. Simultaneously, Beneatha Younger, the main female character, receives two suitors, both played by UNCG students.
Junior acting major Josh C. Anderson appears as George Murchison, a wealthy college man who Beneatha’s brother Walter calls an “assimilationist.” Senior Baraka Ongeri plays the other suitor, a Nigerian student who offers Beneatha something she yearns for – a connection to her African roots.
The issue of whether or not the family will move to a new house is paramount, but equally crucial is the part of the story that qualifies as “kitchen sink drama.”
“When it came out, it was the first play that celebrated the interior lives of black people,” explains Bush. “The weight of this play makes us recognize that black history and American history are the same history.”
When the play debuted in 1959, Hansberry was the first African American woman to have a show on Broadway and the youngest American playwright to do so. It was immediately successful with both black and white audiences, and as Bush says, in the 60 years that followed, the United States saw hundreds of black theaters popping up, and within 20 years, an African American playwright winning the Pulitzer Prize.
“‘A Raisin in the Sun’ exists next to ‘Death of a Salesman’ and ‘The Glass Menagerie,’” says Bush. “And when we hold it up to the light, we get to show people that’s what black Americans are capable of, and that’s the greatest joy.”
“A Raisin in the Sun” runs through Feb. 18, with tickets available through Triad Stage.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications