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''A Raisin in the Sun'' is a Sweet Success

With its second production this year, the Berea College Theatre Laboratory presented Lorriane Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” at the McGaw Theater on November 10 and 11 and November 15-18. A cast of brilliant student actors brought the African-American classic to life. The play was inspired by Langston Hughes' poem, “A Dream Deferred,” in which Hughes asks, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”

The 2006 production of Lorraine's Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" at the McGaw Theatre.

Set during the segregated 1950s on the south side of Chicago, a black family struggles to overcome poverty and the turmoil within their home. The character of Lena, the grandmother and matriarch of the home was played by Morgan Younge. Lena acts as the family’s center and the glue that holds the household together. Acting opposite of Younge, Justin Lee plays Lena’s son, Walter Lee Younger, who lives with his wife Ruth, played by Charity Warren, and their young son, Travis, played by A.J. Peterkin. The whole family stays in Lena's run-down apartment. Beneatha Younger, Walter’s educated and sometimes snobby sister, played by Sirajah Hana Raheem, also resides in the apartment.

“The character of Walter Lee Younger is a lot like me," said Lee. "I have his same drive and aspirations; however, I don’t drink like the character,”

Freshman Jimmie Shelley particularly liked Lee's performance. "[When] stood up for his family and talked about their five generations, I got chills down my spine!" he said.

Hansberry's “A Raisin in the Sun" made its Broadway debut on March 11, 1959. The play quickly met with great acclaim, and earned the then-unknown black female playwright the Drama Circle Critics Award for 1958-59. Since its debut, "A Raisin in the Sun" has been translated into more than thirty languages and has been performed throughout the world.

This year’s production at Berea College was directed by Rodney L. Clark, a newcomer to the Theatre Laboratory and to the Berea community. Commenting on his inspiration for performing the play, he said, “After discovering that several professors had used this play as a reference in their classes, I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty and the greater Madison County community to explore the characters associated with this engaging African-American story.”

Clark’s innovative ideas also led to the incorporation of film into the theatrics of the play. Film clips that were previously recorded were shown in-sync with the scene, behind closed doors and during transitions between scenes. The creative feature added dimension to the play and enhanced its drama.

The play was a hit with the Berea community. “The entire play was an emotional ride; I felt it in my soul when the character of Lena became emotional over her son's dishonesty,” said Ebony Williams, a freshman.

Before the curtain closed on "A Raisin in the Sun," Younge as Lena reminded the audience that, although a dream may be deferred, "there is always something left to love."

For more information, visit the theatre laboratory's Web site.

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