Why this again

We are thrilled to launch TimeLine’s 17th season next week with Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.

Since we announced this play I’ve been struck by the number of people who’ve responded with “Why that play again?” This hasn’t been a majority response, but I’ve heard it more than expected. Yet when asked, most people have trouble answering when they last saw it performed. (It’s been 13 years since a major Chicago revival by the Goodman Theatre and seven years since Court Theatre produced a musical adaptation.)

Perhaps “Why that again?” is asked of any American classic. We wonder what new could possibly be mined from The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Our Town, The Crucible, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, etc., until we see one of those plays with fresh eyes and are knocked out by its impact and stunned to hear things we’ve never heard in it before.

The label of “classic” is ascribed to these plays for a reason—each has a resonance that is timeless. And TimeLine puts A Raisin in the Sun on stage this fall not just because it is timeless but also because we believe it is incredibly timely.

Though written more than 50 years ago, A Raisin in the Sun—arguably the greatest play ever set in Chicago—has as much to say now as it did then. While Hansberry wrote during a time that feels distant (preceding the Civil Rights movement), Chicago was then and is now a tale of two cities, splintered into neighborhoods with stark contrasts.

Company Member Mildred Marie Langford and Daryl Satcher during a rehearsal run-through of “A Raisin in the Sun”

The issues that impact us most are intrinsically tied to where we reside—to where our real estate is. Be it rampant violence, gang activity, drug trafficking, economic investment, park beautification or the battle over the quality and quantity of our schools, our deep connection (or relative indifference) to these headlines comes down to where we find ourselves in this great metropolis. When one of those stories is rooted in a part of town other than our own, is our investment and concern as great?

A Raisin in the Sun is a play full of hope, full of a yearning to fulfill dreams and seize opportunity. A grandmother strives to give her kids and grandson a better life than what she knew. A father instills in his son the belief that he can do anything he sets his mind to. And a daughter works to break barriers of gender, education and career achievement. But they all see their dreams as unnattainable if they remain where they currently dwell.

It’s a story about Chicago—then and now and hopefully not forever.

So, why this play again? A Raisin in the Sun is about our community and the ever-shifting but ever-existing neighborhood barriers that keep it a tale of two cities. It’s a story about Chicago—then and now and hopefully not forever.

Director Ron OJ Parson confers with actor Toni Martin during rehearsal of "A Raisin in the Sun"
Director Ron OJ Parson confers with actor Toni Martin during rehearsal of “A Raisin in the Sun”

I’m delighted to have director Ron OJ Parson at TimeLine for the first time. I’ve greatly admired his work for more than 15 years, and you can read in our Backstory program book (and coming soon on this blog) about his long and storied history with this play.

Whether it’s your first experience with A Raisin in the Sun or not, we think you’ll see it from a unique perspective at TimeLine—inside the Younger’s apartment in a way that perhaps you haven’t been invited before. Most are likely to have first seen this play in a large, proscenium theatre, or perhaps, on a screen. Those perspectives surely have impact, but they also have a built-in remove that isolates you from the characters. The production team has worked against that norm, drawing you literally inside the apartment building where the Younger family dwells. You’ll sit just a few feet from the couch where Travis sleeps and the kitchen table where major family decisions are debated.

We can’t wait to invite you through the front door!

A Raisin in the Sun is the first production in our powerhouse line-up this year. Our 2013-14 season also includes the The Normal Heart playing nearby at Stage 773, The How and the Why, the first-ever Chicago production of the musical Juno, and a new downtown commercial production of To Master the Art, which was originally commissioned and premiered at TimeLine in 2010.

It promises to be a year of great discussion and discovery, and I thank you for being a part of it.

Leave a Reply

Comments (0)

  1. Janet Laballiere

    We saw this play last night and were transfixed. My family came up from the South before the turn of the century. My grandfather was one of the few blacks in his company of friends who was born in Chicago (born, 1898) and our experiences so reflect this play. It was wonderfully acted with such emotional power; bittersweet yet accentuated with the hope that only a struggling people can have. The direction was on spot! My daughter, a 13 year old girl, was seeing a live play for the first time and I felt this play would be absolutely the best choice. She is preparing for her coming of age ceremony; one that finally has a name after going nameless for generations. We finally know enough about our tribal origins to give a name to something that are ancestors carried for us quietly and thoughtfully through the generations. This play was especially meaningful to her. Thank you so much!