Raisin in the Sun

First produced in 1959, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun was the winner of the New York Critics Circle Best Play of the Year and its impact on American theatre is as strong today as when it first premiered. The first Broadway play written by a black woman, the New York Times claimed in 1983 that A Raisin in the Sun “changed American theatre forever” with a radically new representation of black life that was authentic, unsentimental, and undeniably ahead of its time.

Awaiting the arrival of a life insurance check after the death of the family patriarch, the Younger family contemplates the best use of the life-changing sum of money. Living on Chicago's South Side, in a small tenement that has accommodated too many people for too many years, they dream of their own home, higher education, and a business investment opportunity. When the money arrives and all their dreams seem to be within reach, an unexpected turn of events puts the entire future of the family in jeopardy. Before they can move forward the Younger family must face essential questions about identity and legacy that explore what survives when a family’s dreams are constantly deferred.

as a part of THE RAISIN CYCLE

A Raisin in the Sun is the central play of our cycle; both Genesis and Clybourne Park were written in response to and in dialogue with this play. Created by Lorraine Hansberry, Lena (or Mama) is the fundamental thread that connects all three plays. She is the widowed matriarch in A Raisin in the Sun and her yearning for a better life, with opportunities for her children, is the crux of the Younger family’s story. Her love for her family is the inspiration for Mercedes White’s Genesis and Lena’s actions in A Raisin in the Sun, create the world in which Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park exists.

playwright Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry (b. 1930 - d. 1965) was a playwright, writer, and activist who was the first African American woman to have her play produced on Broadway and the youngest winner of a New York Critics Circle Award. A Raisin in the Sun was her first full-length play to be produced, and has since been translated into over thirty-five different languages. In 1961, a film version of the play won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival. Hansberry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during the run of her second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and she passed away shortly after at only 34 years of age. After her death, Hansberry’s ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, oversaw the publication of her play Les Blancs, The Drinking Gourd, What Use Are Flowers?,and a collection of her writings adapted into a play entitled To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. Hansberry has been honored by a number of organizations posthumously including the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, American Theatre Hall of Fame, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame, as well as having a number of schools, buildings on college campuses, and theatres named in her honor.


director Sydney Chatman

sydney-chatman.jpgSydney Chatman is the 2019 Goodman Theatre Maggio Directing Fellow. Chatman is a director, educator, mentor, producer, writer, and founding director of The Tofu Chitlin’ Circuit featuring the self-pinned and directed award-winning play, Black Girls (Can) Fly!

Ms. Chatman is an African-American Arts Alliance Award and 3Arts Make a Wave winner. Her credits include: New York: Tony Nominated-The Trip to Bountiful and a directing fellow with the Lincoln Centers Director’s Lab. The Goodman Theatre: Associate Director for the World Premiere of How to Catch Creation, Assistant Director for Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1, 2, and 3, and Stage Management intern for Gem of the Ocean, Associate Director for The Last Wife (TimeLine Theatre Company), Assistant Director for Sunset Baby (TimeLine Theatre Company), Jitney (Court Theatre), St. James Infirmary (Congo Square Theatre Company), and Drip! (eta Creative Arts).

Rooted in her community, she passionately bridges the divide between the audience and the stage through creative theatrical performances and collaborations with the Adler Planetarium, Hyde Park Jazz Festival/Back Alley Jazz, The Reva and David Logan Center, Court Theatre and Victory Gardens Theatre.

In 2008 she created innovative programming called The A La Carte (a monthly thought-provoking theater discussion for South side audiences) and the Tuxedo Junction (community field trips to see plays and other artistic performances). She is a featured artist in Black Theater is Black Life; An Oral History of Black Theater in Chicago 1997-2000.

Chatman has been a theater leader; writing a theater directing blog, featured panelist at The Goodman Theatre and board member for the African-American Arts Alliance of Chicago. She is a community partner with the Green Line Performing Arts Center in the Washington Park neighborhood, an arts cohort member with the Community Program Accelerators with the University of Chicago. Sydney is also committed to servicing in her home town of Gary, Indiana as a committee member for the Gary International Black Film Festival.

Sydney has been a theater teacher for sixteen years, at the University of Chicago Charter School, where she writes and directs countless plays rooted in social justice and empowerment for the youth. Her arts integration has made her a mainstay in the arts education community and a unique voice in creating stories for Black children.

She is a champion for new work that seeks to support, challenge, empower, and make space for Black women and girls.


dramaturg Annaliese McSweeney

Annaliese McSweeney is a freelance dramaturg in Chicago and northern Indiana. She previously worked with IUN on Failure: A Love Story (2016). She has also worked with Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame on 9 to 5 (2018). Her professional work includes Detour Guide by Karim Nagi (Silk Road/Stage Left, 2019), Her Majesty’s Will by Rob Kauzlaric (Lifeline Theatre, 2017), The Bottle Tree by Beth Kander (Stage Left Theatre, 2016), Mosque Alert by Jamil Khoury (Silk Road Rising, 2016), Miss Buncle’s Book by Christina Calvit(Lifeline, 2015), The White Road by Karen Tarjan (Irish Theatre of Chicago, 2015) and numerous development projects with Stage Left Theatre where she was the literary manager from 2016-18. She has also worked on research with Irish Theatre of Chicago, Lifeline Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, and American Theater Company. Annaliese has a BA in Theatre and Psychology as well as an M.Phil in Theatre and Performance from Trinity College, Ireland.


producer/scenic design Katherine Arfken


costume design Brenda Winstead


lighting design Levi J. Wilkins


sound design Brian Thomas Chopps


company manager/casting director Mark Baer


stage manager Mia Godfrey


assistant stage manager Jasmine Jaramillo


assistant sound designer/sound board operator Nana Asabere


run crew Isaiah Rayburn


production manager/technical director Tim O'Donnell


assistant technical director Brian Thomas-Chopps


prop managers Michael Litke Adams and Espi Flores


assistant costume designer Billie Chatman


assistant lighting designer/master electrician Laquita Williams


scene shop crew Eric Munoz, Kaitlin Nichols, Jacob Rodriguez, T225 Stagecraft class


electrics crew

Act 1

Russ (white, 40s)

Bev (married to Russ; white, 40s)

Francine (black, 30s)

Albert (married to Francine, black, 30s)

Jim (white, 20s)

Karl (white, 30s)

Betsy (married to Karl, late 20s)


Act 2

Tom (played by the actor who played Jim)

Lindsey (played by the actor who played Betsy)

Kathy (played by the actor who played Bev)

Steve (married to Lindsey; played by the actor who played Karl)

Lena (played by the actor who played Francine)

Kevin (married to Lena;played by the actor who played Albert)

Dan (played by the actor who played Russ)

Kenneth (played by the actor who played Jim)

ORIGIN STORY OF THE PLAY:

"I have told people that not only is this a Negro family, specifically and definitely culturally, but it’s not even a New York family or a southern Negro family. It is specifically South Side Chicago.” (Criterion Collection)

WHAT THE PLAYWRIGHT SAYS ABOUT THE PLAY:

"I don't have the right to be very personal about the reception to this play because I think the reception to this play transcends what I did or what Sidney Poitier or Lloyd Richards or even Philip Rose or any of us connected with it. I think what it reflects at this moment is, that at this particular moment in our country, as backward and as depressed as I, for instance, am about so much of it, there's a new mood. I think we went through eight to 10 years of misery under McCarthy and all that nonsense and to the great credit of the American people they got rid of it. And they're feeling like, make new sounds. And I'm glad I was here to make one, you know?” (Interview with Studs Terkel)

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY ABOUT THE PLAY:

Without question, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is one of the most important plays ever written about Chicago. Emotionally powerful and intellectually provocative, it vividly shows an African-American family’s struggles to escape the shackles of segregation on the city’s South Side. (Playbill Interview with Imani Perry)

[Hansberry] demonstrates a keen awareness of the multiple ways in which people of African descent in the United States have fought for their right to live with dignity, calling into question the idea that there is any difference at all between radical and respectable resistance. (Criterion Collection)

Hansberry’s creation of an array of complex characters who represent the dreams of working-class, urban, postwar black communities offered a nuanced view of African American life to a mainstream audience. [...] A Raisin in the Sun reminds us that our strategies for resistance must be as varied as the oppressions that threaten to derail our ability to live with joy, courage, and dignity. (Criterion Collection)

A Raisin in the Sun engages with many issues that remain salient for African American people nearly two decades into the twenty-first century. Hansberry draws attention to gender, class, and generational tensions within black communities, relationships between African Americans and Africans in America, competing definitions of progress and success, and the ways in which structural racism affects the everyday lives of black people. (Criterion Collection)

A Raisin in the Sun is a great American play not because it was one of the first to deal with the subject of race, but because Hansberry captured the heart of human conflict on three separate levels: the first, of course, was the issue of racial integration in the 1950’s; the second is the drama of a man trying to improve his life and running aground; finally, however, it is a play about the very nature of love. In one of the great speeches of the American theater, Lena Younger, facing an impending schism in her family, asks her daughter, “When do you think is the time to love somebody the most?” Too often, the correct answer is elusive. (Huffpost)