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.

cast

Ruth Younger   Rose Simmons

Travis Younger  Ellis Gorham

Walter Lee Younger Dannon Gorham

Beneatha Younger   Courtney Nicole

Lena Younger (Mama)  Denina White

Joseph Asagai Anthony Richardson Jr.

George Murchison  Jordan Holmes

Karl Lindner   Dexter Pritchard 

Bobo   Larry Jenkins  

moving men  Jordan Holmes, Larry Jenkins, Anthony Richardson Jr.


production team

playwright  Lorraine Hansberry

director  Sydney Chatman

dramaturg  Annaliese McSweeney

producer/scenic design  Katherine Arfken

costume design  Brenda Winstead

lighting design Levi J. Wilkins

sound design  Brian Thomas-Chopps

associate producer/company manager Mark Baer

stage manager Mia Godfrey

assistant stage manager Jasmine Jaramillo

assistant sound designer/sound board operatorNana Asabere

run crew  Isaiah Rayburn

production manager/technical director  Tim O'Donnell

assistant technical director  Brian Thomas-Chopps

assistant lighting designer/master electrician  Laquita Williams

prop managers  Michael Litke Adams and Espi Flores

scenic artists  Katherine Arfken, Kelley Feeman

scene shop/electrics crew  Nana Asbere, Joshua Kime, Jay-Lan Halliburton, Brandon Hearne, Eric Munoz, Kaitlin Nichols, Jacob Rodriguez, Nicole Ruiz + T225 Stagecraft class: Eric Diaz, Espi Flores, Mia Godfrey, Jordan Holmes, Sidney Holmes, Jasmine Jaramillo, Cheyanne Johnson, Angel Mix, Isaiah Rayburn, De'Djreanna Thames

Rose Marie Simmons (Ruth Younger) of Gary is excited to grace the stage at IU Northwest. Her credits include The Wiz (West Side Theater Guild), Mahalia Jackson: Movin Thru the Light (Black Ensemble Theater), Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over (Black Ensemble Theater) Fences (West Side Theater Guild) and TV’s “Empire”(FOX). Rose graduated from Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts. She is very thankful for her gifts and the ability to touch people through them. She knows without a shadow of a doubt that all things are possible with God, hard work, and dedication.


Ellis Gorham (Travis Younger)  son of Dannon Gorham of Gary, loves baseball and singing. He goes to Highland Christian School where he takes Spanish, choir, and is planning to run track. This is his first time being in a play. He loves his friends and family, and is looking forward to seeing you at the play.


Dannon Gorham (Walter Lee Younger) of Gary is excited and humbled to be a part of a production showcasing this timeless classic play. Dannon is currently a Registered Nurse employed with Methodist Hospitals after graduating from Ivy Tech Lake County campus with an associate’s degree in nursing. He thanks all those that came out to support!!


Courtney Nicole (Beneatha Younger) of Gary is a trained dancer and actress whose goal is to share the knowledge that she has gained over the years with others. She hopes to inspire them as she has been inspired by those who taught her. This Gary native has been with DancExcel Champion Center for the Arts Education for 15 years. The artist has trained in Ballet, Tap, African, Hip-Hop and Modern dance styles. She also studied theater at Wirt-Emerson Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts and The Hammond Academy for the Performing Arts. She has performed with many groups including, Indiana Youth Ballet (Whiting), Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (Chicago), Ayodele Drum Dance (Chicago), Muntu Dance Theater of Chicago (Chicago), and others. Currently, Courtney is teaching Creative Movement, Beginner and Intermediate Ballet, and Contemporary dance at DancExcel and coaches Westside High schools Majorette team. 


Denina White (Lena Younger (Mama)) is truly elated about returning to her Alma Mater Indiana University-Northwest where she studied acting as an undergraduate. Her previous acting credits include For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow was Enuf (William Marshall Players) and Porgy and Bess (West Side High School). Denina graduated from West Side High School and received her BA from Indiana University. She then went on to earn an MA in Education from Liberty University. She would like to give a heartfelt thank you to family and friends for lending their support. 


Anthony (Ant Rich) Richardson Jr. (Joseph Asaga, moving man) a Chicago native, got his bug for acting in the 7th grade. However, it wasn’t until high school when he joined the Thornwood Speech Team that he would be able to gain assistance and mold his talent to learn how to tell the story. He has a genuine love for the arts and does every performance in honor of one of his biggest supporters, his Grandma. Living by the creed “aspire to inspire” it is his goal to touch a life and spread positivity when he can. Some past productions include A Raisin in the Sun (The Drama Group) and The Nativity (Theatre 47).


Jordan Holmes (George Murchison, moving man) of Merrillville is excited to be performing for the first time with Theatre Northwest. Merrillville High School performance experience includes Dauphin in Joan of Arc, Curio in Twelfth Night, and Pilkington in Animal Farm. A first-year theatre major, he is looking forward to learning lighting, sound, construction, and set design, as well as performance.  


Dexter Pritchard (Karl Lindner) is a lifelong Valparaiso resident, a retired Ironworker and master bicycle mechanic (owner of Dragon Wheels), just coming off a run of Macbeth at Chicago Street Theatre. In the past few years he his dog Odie have been active in the theatre, including work with the Gary Shakespeare Company and others. He is looking forward to this run at IUN working with another great cast and crew.


Larry Jenkins (Bobo, moving man) of Gary is happy to be making his Theatre Northwest debut.  Larry works as Radio DJ and Music Director at WLTH AM 1370 and a promoter of blues festivals around the region. He enjoys acting for local church groups and working as a real estate developer.

Lorraine Hansberry  (playwright) (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.

Sydney Chatman Profile image Sydney Chatman (director) 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.


Annaliese McSweeney (dramaturg) 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.


Katherine Arfken (producer/scenic designer)  is an IU Northwest faculty member and resident scenic designer with Theatre Northwest where she recently designed scenery for Well and afterlife: a ghost story. Chicago credits include work with Infamous Commonwealth Theatre and The Bottle Tree, Mutt, The Coward, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and Insurrection: Holding History with Stage Left Theatre.  Kathy is a graduate of Knox College and Brandeis University.


Brenda Winstead  (costume design)  is excited to be returning to Theatre Northwest where she most recently designed costumes for Well and Vanya. Her Chicago area design credits include a Jeff Nominated design for Nice Work if You Can Get It at Theatre at the Center where she has designed over 50 shows. She has also designed at Light Opera Works, Stage Left Theatre, Shattered Globe, Chicago Folks Operetta, Theatre Seven and Chicago Opera Theatre. Regional design credits include Peninsula Players, Forestburgh Playhouse, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Black Hills Playhouse and Sierra Repertory Theatre. Brenda is an ensemble member with Stage Left Theatre and is a proud member of United Scenic Artists Local 829. 


Levi J. Wilkins (lighting design)  is a Chicago southwest side-based lighting designer and has been a member of the Chicago theater community since the age of 6.  After high school, Levi attended Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois.  Since college, Levi has had the privilege of being the resident lighting designer for multiple churches in Chicago; currently residing at The Faith Community of St. Sabina. In addition, Levi is the go-to for many of Chicago’s gospel music artist for stage lighting and stage design. His past theater credits include The Book of Mormon (Flying Elephant Productions), Not for Sale and Back in the Day (Urban Theater Company), The Real Life Adventures Of Jimmy De Las Rosas (Free Street Theater), The Encounter Festival (2018, 2019 & coming 2020) and Peacebook Festival (2018 & 2019) with Collaboraction Social Justice Theater, along with many concerts and dance performance design credits.


Brian Thomas Chopps (sound design)  is excited to be returning to IU Northwest where his credits in sound design include A Doll House, Well,and Failure: A Love Story. Additional Northwest Indiana and Chicago credits include sound design for Othello (Gary Shakespeare Company) and assistant technical director for Insurrection (Stage Left Theatre) Brian received his BA in Theatre from Indiana University Northwest.


Mark Baer (company manager/casting director)   is in his eighth year teaching Acting and Directing for Indiana University Northwest where he serves as resident director. Mark is co-founder and president of Gary Shakespeare Company. He has also directed around the Midwest including workwith St. Croix Festival Theatre (WI), Towle Theatre (IN) and City Circle Acting Company (IA). Mark is a member of the Society of American Fight Directors and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.  He resides in Crown Point with his wife Kelly and daughter Samantha.


Mia Godfrey (stage manager)  is super excited to do her third show and second staged reading at Theatre Northwest, where she has previously appeared as an ensemble member in Well, as Kristine Linde in A Doll House, and as an ensemble member in the staged reading of Burial at Thebes.  She has also recently performed with Gary Shakespeare Company’s production of Othello as Senator and Lodovico. Mia is currently enrolled at Indiana University Northwest as a theatre major.  A Raisin in the Sun will be her first play fulfilling a role behind the scenes.


Jasmine Jaramillo  (assistant stage manager)  of Merrillville, was a frequent participant in theatre at Merrillville High School both onstage and behind the scenes. Although this is her first experience as Assistant Stage Manager, she has filled crew positions on other productions such as Joseph… Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera, Joan of Arc, and Animal Farm, to name a few. Jasmine is ecstatic to be a freshman theatre major at Indiana University Northwest.


Isaiah Rayburn (production assistant-run crew) of Merrillville is a first-year theatre major and a first-time member of the run crew. He graduated from Merrillville High School where he was a leader in “Group,” a social club that helped students build connections and handle the challenges of high school life.


Nana Asabere  (assistant sound design/sound board operator)of Merrillville is an ambitious Indiana University Northwest undergraduate who has worked behind the scenes on Theatre Northwest productions including afterlife: a love story, Well, and A Doll House. He has also gained professional experience through work at Theatre at the Center as both a carpenter and electrician. In his free time, he enjoys reading, playing strategic games, or going to the gym. Nana is currently studying through NASM to become a NASM-CPT and plans on acquiring his PES and Nutrition certificates.


Tim O’Donnell (production manager/technical director) has been involved in over250productions since 1986. Venues include The Santa Fe Opera, and Florida’s Seaside Music Theater. Tim received his BA from The University of Alabama at Birmingham in Theatre/Art Studio and from The University of Memphis, his MFA in Scenic/Lighting Design. From 1996 to 2006 Tim was the Designer/Technical Director/Production Manager for Venice Theatre in Florida. A former member of IATSE local 412 of Sarasota, Tim currently serves on the board of Gary Shakespeare Company. Since 2008, Tim has been the Production Manager/Technical Director for the IUN Performing Arts department. 


Laquita Williams (assistant lighting design/master electrician)is excited to return to Indiana University Northwest where she has been a part of Theatre Northwest productions since 2001. Originally from Northwest Indiana Laquita studied technical theater at Indiana University Northwest and received a Bachelors of Arts degree in theater as well an associate’s degree. She is currently the master electrician at Theater at the Center in Munster. Laquita would like to thank her family for all their love and support.


Michael Litke Adams (prop manager) is a junior theatre major at Indiana University Northwest. Previous Theatre Northwest credits include Peter Pan and Wendy as Michael, Well as assistant props manager, and A Doll House as stage manager.  He is excited to return to the props management role this fall semester. 


Espi Flores (prop manager) is a sophomore theatre major.  With Theatre Northwest, she was the light board operator on A Doll House and the assistant stage manager on Well and also worked as a scenic artist on the recent Gary Shakespeare production of Othello.  Espi hopes to become a playwright and screenwriter. 

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)