Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun first debuted on Broadway in 1959, and tackled taboo issues of the time, including racial segregation, class issues, and poverty in the inner city.
The story is based upon a black family’s experiences in Chicago as they attempt to purchase a home and integrate into a white neighborhood.
Today, A Raisin in the Sun is being revived on Broadway, helmed by director Kenny Leon, with a stellar cast including Oscar winner Denzel Washington, LaTanya Richardson, Anika Noni Rose, Sophie Okonedo, and Sean Patrick Thomas.
In an interview with theGrio’s Chris Witherspoon, cast members from A Raisin in the Sun discussed the play’s relevancy some fifty years later, in light of hot-button issues like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.
“It’s shocking that’s still going on,” Thomas said. “These idiots in Florida that are just still so afraid of black people… that’s what this play is about. This family is about to move into a white neighborhood and they’re terrified… they’re afraid. They feel like whatever they say and whatever they do justifies their behavior because they’re afraid.”
“It’s the same thing in Florida,” Thomas continued. “These people are irrationally afraid and they’re marching around with their guns and they think that gives them an excuse to just kill black boys.”
“I think that a lot of us think that the play is no longer relevant…and then you realize that it’s quite relevant,” Rose added. “Not so much people being held out of a neighborhood because of race necessarily, although that still does happen and we still have children being killed just because of the way that they look and the color of their skin… but because of the economic situation that is going on.”
Leon, who directed the 2004 Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, says that Hansberry’s production is the “play that keeps on giving.”
Leon says that the play will cause viewers to question the status of the American dream.
“Where do we stand in terms of the future for young African-American men?” Leon asks.
“When you see Travis in our play [played by Bryce Jenkins], you will see the man in him. You will see the Trayvon Martin in him.”
“This particular time the play will resonate on a much deeper, richer level.”
Previews for A Raisin in the Sun begin March 8 and the show officially opens April 3 for a 14-week limited engagement through June 15.