Reading “A Raisin in the Sun”
By Ed Sobel, >advice Arden’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of Clybourne Park
When Bruce Norris was a young boy growing up in Texas, he saw a production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and it had a deep impact on him. He notes that, as a white child, he was provoked to see himself in the role of “oppressor”. Some 40 years later, in response to those feelings, he wrote Clybourne Park, now running on our Arcadia stage. We thought it might be valuable to return to Norris’ inspiration, and so last night the Arden hosted a free reading of Hansberry’s play, performed by group of Philadelphia and New York actors and led by director Lee Kenneth Richardson.
The reading, which coincided with the 53rd anniversary of A Raisin in the Sun opening on Broadway, was attended by many who have seen Clybourne Park. Even in this simple form, with actors at music stands and minimal rehearsal, the power of Hansberry’s storytelling and her ability to capture the complex relationships between her family of characters resonated with rich vibrancy. Like Norris, Hansberry drew on personal experience when writing the play (her father moved their family into an all-white neighborhood when she was young, and the resulting court case went on to be adjudicated by the U.S. Supreme Court.) Hearing Raisin juxtaposed with Norris’ rendering of another side of the story literally just upstairs, added an additional charge.
The Arden will present a full production of A Raisin in the Sun, under the guidance of long-time Arden collaborator Walter Dallas as part of our subscription season next Spring. If last night’s reading is any indication, it promises to be a moving and rewarding experience.