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Let’s Talk With Damone: ‘A Raisin In The Sun’ To Be Revived On Broadway…Again?

Word on the street has been a production of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic family drama ‘A Raisin In The Sun,’ is to be mounted for a 2014 Broadway run…again. Well, now it’s been officially confirmed and this time, apparently, it will star Oscar and Tony-winner Denzel Washington as ‘Walter Lee Younger,’ alongside Diahann Carroll (‘Lena’), Sophie Okenedo (I assume as ‘Ruth’), and Anika Noni Rose (again, I assume as ‘Beneatha’), and is to be directed by Kenny Leon…again. Interesting, to say the least.

A revival of ‘A Raisin In The Sun’ was last seen on Broadway in 2004 (just under ten years ago), directed by Kenny Leon, and starring Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, Phylicia Rashad (who won the Best Performance by a Leading Actress Tony that year), Audra McDonald (who won the Best Performance by a Featured Actress Tony that year), and Sanaa Lathan (who was nominated for the Best Performance by a Featured Actress Tony that year).

‘A Raisin In The Sun’ is one of my favorite plays. Hands down. Hansberry crafted a timeless masterpiece with that work. That being said, however, I’m not sure ANOTHER revival is the route to go. I admire all of the actors supposedly filling the roles for this 2014 Broadway run, and want nothing more than for them to be working…but ‘A Raisin In The Sun’? Really? Again?? This soon??? Sigh. I get that this cast (and to be honest, this play) WILL draw an audience, but when there are countless OTHER Black playwrights works to explore and stories to be told, I grow weary. When there are Black playwrights like Dominique Morisseau (‘Detroit ‘67’), Tarell Alvin McCraney (‘Choir Boy’), Harrison David Rivers (‘Look Upon Our Lowliness’), and Kwame Kwei-Armah (‘Elmina’s Kitchen’), whose work deserves a stab at the Great White Way (and not to mention the countless other emerging young, or not so young, Black playwrights I didn’t mention), I can’t really bring myself to get too excited about another run of an often-done “Black classic.” Regardless of how good the play is.

Question: When was the last time a NEW work by a Black playwright about Black people, that WASN’T a musical, was on Broadway?
Answer: Over the last ten years only ten shows (non-musicals), written by and about Black people, appeared on Broadway.
“The Mountaintop,” by Katori Hall. (2011)
“Stick Fly,” by Lydia Diamond. (2011)
“Fences,” by August Wilson. (2010)
“Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” by August Wilson. (2009)
“Radio Golf,” by August Wilson. (2007)
“A Raisin In The Sun,” by Lorraine Hansberry. (2004)
“Drowning Crow,” by Regina Taylor. (2004)
“Gem Of The Ocean,” by August Wilson. (2004)
“Whoopi,” by Whoopi Goldberg. (2004)
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” by August Wilson. (2003)

Out of those ten only four WEREN’T written by either August Wilson or Lorraine Hansberry.

So what is it? Is “the Broadway community” afraid to take chances on NEW Black playwrights? Is the underlying theme here that we Blacks are only really welcome on Broadway if we are singin’ & dancin’ (read: schuckin’ & jivin’), or appearing in Black classic plays? I’m really curious.

At any rate, another revival of ‘A Raisin In The Sun’ may be descending upon the “Great White Way” (Ha! That joke wrote itself years ago…), and I’m conflicted. Though I don’t really want to see another incarnation of this show on Broadway so soon, I love seeing US at work. So…fee-fi-fo-fum! Maybe Broadway ain’t as “progressive” as folks have claimed it to be. Maybe Broadway really is just like it’s little sister, Hollywood.

This is a conversation I think we definitely need to be having, I just don’t know where to start. Do we keep encouraging Black playwrights to continue writing about the Black experience? Do we focus our attentions on getting plays written by Black playwrights about the Black experience produced? Or do we just remain thankful for the little we get, and keep on keeping on?

What do YOU think? Share your thoughts with me. As an artist interested in telling his own stories about the Black experience, I’m really looking to hear what my fellow artists have to say!

Let the dialogue begin…hopefully!

Written By

Drew Shade is a theatre artist and enthusiast who fosters artistic diversity and excellence for the love of Black theatre artists. He is the Founder/Creative Director of Broadway Black, Off-Book Podcast & The Antonyo Awards. “Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone’s disbelief.” – August Wilson


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