‘A Raisin in the Sun’ to Begin Conversation About Race on Campus, in Community

Published Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at 4:27 pm

As the kickoff event to a four-week campus and community-wide conversation titled “How We Talk About Race in 2016,” In/Visible Theatre will produce a staged reading of Lorraine Hansberry’s masterwork, “A Raisin in the Sun.” The event will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, at Valborg Theatre at Appalachian State University.

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ was written by Lorraine Hansberry, pictured. It debuted on Broadway in 1959. A staged reading will be presented at Appalachian State University Jan. 31 at 3 p.m.

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ was written by Lorraine Hansberry, pictured. It debuted on Broadway in 1959. A staged reading will be presented at Appalachian State University Jan. 31 at 3 p.m.

The reading is offered free of charge to the general public on a first-come, first-seated basis with the doors to the theatre opening 30 minutes prior to the performance.

The concluding event in the month-long program will take place in late February with a production of Bruce Norris’ Tony, Olivier and Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Clybourne Park” by Appalachian’s Department of Theatre and Dance. In the interim period, dozens of classes in academic departments across campus will study the plays and the issues they contain in advance of each production.

Other campus areas participating in the various programs include: the Office of Arts and Cultural Programs; Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance; Office of Multicultural Student Development; and the Sustained Dialogue Initiative. Both plays and the related education and outreach programs have been purposely scheduled to coincide with African-American History Month in February.

“For centuries, the arts have been an appropriate forum for the presentation of and discussion about difficult topics within society,” said Dr. Darrell Kruger, provost and executive vice chancellor. “‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and ‘Clybourne Park’ capture very important issues related to race, cultural differences and gentrification. I look forward to these and other continued campus and community-wide conversations surrounding these topics and I fully encourage your participation.”

“A Raisin in the Sun” is a groundbreaking play that starred Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeill, Ruby Dee and Diana Sands in the original 1959 Broadway production. Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena.

When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama Lena dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans, however: buying a liquor store and being his own man. Beneatha has dreams of attending medical school. The tensions and prejudice they face form this groundbreaking piece of American drama. Sacrifice, trust and love among the Younger family and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration.

Teresa Lee, a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance and core company member of In/Visible Theatre, directs the staged reading. Lee said, “I’m so pleased to have a chance to work on a reading of this seminal work in American Theatre. It’s been fun to mix Appalachian State student performers with community members in the cast.”

As to the choice of the play, Lee said, “We have a growing African-American population in Boone and the surrounding region, and it’s important to be inclusive artistically, which is why I’m grateful to get to work on this important play with this wonderful cast.” The cast for “A Raisin in the Sun” includes Tiffany Christian, Raylen Christian, Roy Dale Cox, Marion Edwards, Darius Gregory, Koria Johnson, T. J. Lewis, Calvin Noble and Jordan Randall.

In/Visible Theatre is a Boone-based professional theatre company best known for producing the world premiere of “Without Words” by Derek Davidson, based on the memoir “A Man Without Words” by Susan Schaller. The play was part of An Appalachian Summer Festival in July 2015.

Kevin Warner, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, explained that, “In/Visible Theatre is associated with our department because of our ongoing, collaborative, mutually-beneficial partnership. ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ is an extension of this partnership into the larger campus community and the region in which our university is based.”

Karen Sabo, producing director of the company, said, “While In/Visible Theatre usually creates new work, we are glad to have a chance to work on this wonderful American classic. ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ was a groundbreaking play when it premiered in New York in 1959, and was the first Broadway play to truly invite in both black and white audience members. Besides its cultural significance, artistically, it’s a beautifully written play.”

The Valborg Theatre is located on campus at the north side of Chapell Wilson Hall on Howard Street in Boone. The theatre entrance faces the back of the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts on King Street. Parking is free on weekends and available on campus in faculty/staff lots and in the College Street parking deck near Belk Library and Information Commons.

For more information, contact the Valborg Theatre box office at 828-262-3063, call the Schaefer Center box office toll-free at 800-841-ARTS (2787), or visit the website at http://theatreanddance.appstate.edu.

About In/Visible Theatre

Founded in 2012, In/Visible Theatre presents plays about unseen people, unheard stories and unasked questions. It believes that theatre, when well done, has the power to strengthen individuals and community. Proud to be located in Boone, In/Visible Theatre engages in an artistic exploration of what it means to live in a growing college town in Central Appalachia.

About the Department of Theatre and Dance

The Department of Theatre and Dance is housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Its mission is to provide liberal arts educational opportunities including B.A. degrees in dance studies and theatre arts. The department also values the opportunity to offer coursework for integrated learning through the arts to the general university student population. Vital to the support of this mission is a dynamic co-curricular production program that provides exemplary theatre and dance experiences to departmental students, the university community and the region. The departmental philosophy is to support the university’s liberal arts environment through a balanced and integrated emphasis on teaching, creative activity, scholarship and service.

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