A RAISIN IN THE SUN
The Shubert Organization
Ethel Barrymore Theatre and Belasco Theatre
New York City, NY
Opening-March 11, 1959
Closing-June 25, 1960
Directed: Lloyd Richards
Designed: Ralph Alswang
Costumes: Virginia Volland
Lighted: Ralph Alswang
Sound Design: Masque Sound Engineering Company
Sidney Poitier – Walter Lee Younger (Brother)
Ruby Dee – Ruth Younger
Glynn Turman – Travis Younger
Diana Sands – Beneatha Younger
Claudia McNeil – Lena Younger (Mother)
Ivan Dixon – Joseph Asagai
Louis Gossett – George Murchison
John Fiedler – Karl Lindner
Lonne Elder III – Bobo
Douglas Turner Ward, Ed Hall – Moving Men
A Raisin in the Sun gained huge success despite it being produced by Philip Rose, a man that had never produced a play before and have very little interest from large investors early on. The production was first played in New Haven, Philadelphia, and Chicago, before eventually opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, in New York City. It ran there for 530 performances and made Lorraine Hansberry the first African American woman to write a play that was produced on Broadway. A Raisin in the Sun, also made Lloyd Richards, an actor and the dean of the Yale School of Drama from 1979 to 1991, the first African American to direct a play on Broadway since 1907.
The Broadway show, as well as the film adaptation made in 1961 of A Raisin in the Sun, included prominent black actors and moguls such as Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, and Glynn Turman.
Sidney Poitier is most known for being the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lillies in a Field in 1963.
Ruby Dee is a critically acclaimed African American actor and was a civil rights activist during the Civil Rights Movement. The New York Drama Critics’ Circle named A Raisin in the Sun the best play of 1959. In 1960, A Raisin in the Sun was nominated for 4 Tony Awards, which recognize achievement in live Broadway theatre.
Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project co-director /producer Tracy Heather Strain interviewed Ruby Dee in February 2009.
The nominations were as follows:
“Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark drama was one of the first on Broadway to examine African-American life on the cusp of the civil rights era. Walter Younger and his mother, Lena, both yearn to move their family out of Chicago’s Southside ghetto. When Lena’s late husband’s insurance check arrives, Lena hopes to use it to buy a house in a white neighborhood — while Walter hopes to invest it in a liquor business.”
Sidney Poitier for Best Actor in a Play
Claudia McNeil for Best Actress in a Play
Lloyd Richards for Best Direction of a Play
Lloyd George Richards was a Canadian-American theatre director, actor, and dean of the Yale School of Drama from 1979 to 1991, and Yale University professor emeritus.
“Among Richards’ accomplishments are staging the original production of Lorraine Hansberry‘s A Raisin in the Sun, debuting on Broadway to standing ovations on 11 March 1959, and in 1984 he introduced August Wilson to Broadway in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. As head of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, he helped develop the careers ofWendy Wasserstein, Christopher Durang, Lee Blessing, and David Henry Hwang. Richards died of heart failure on his eighty-seventh birthday in New York City.Mr. Richards also taught Moscow Art Theatre acting technique under Paul Mann at the Actor’s Workshop in New York alongside Morris Carnovsky.”
The 1961 film adaptation also received several awards and recognition: The National Board of Review recognized Ruby Dee with the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in the film version of A Raisin in the Sun.
Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil were nominated for Golden Globe Awards for their roles in the film.
John Fiedler has played character roles in celebrated dramas on Broadway and in Hollywood but gained lasting fame among young audiences as the voice of Piglet in Walt Disney’s Winnie-the-Pooh films.
Mr. Fiedler had appeared in the Broadway and film productions of “A Raisin in the Sun” and had played a juror on film in the drama “Twelve Angry Men.”
A Raisin in the Sun opening night at Sardi’s
But she has not tipped her play to prove one thing or another. The play is honest. She has told the inner as well as the outer truth about a Negro family in the south-side of Chicago at the present time. Since the performance is also honest and since Sidney Poitier is a candid actor, A Raisin in the Sun has vigor as well as veracity and is likely to destroy the complacency of anyone who sees it.
What the situations do not matter at the moment. For A Raisin in the Sun is a play about human beings who want, on the one hand, to preserve their family pride and, on the other hand, to break out of the poverty that seems to be their fate. Not having any axe to grind, Miss Hansberry has a wide range of topics to write about some of them hilarious, some of them painful in the extreme.
You might, in fact, regard A Raisin in the Sun as a Negro The Cherry Orchard. Although the social scale of the characters is different, the knowledge of how a character is controlled by the environment is much the same, and the alternation of humor and pathos is similar.
A Raisin in the Sun
The Philadelphia Guild
David Downing – Rosaana Carter – S Epatha Merkinson – Charlayne Woodard