March 27, 2013

The Secret History of A RAISIN IN THE SUN

From Sam Lasman, Literary Professional Intern:

A Raisin in the Sun achieved instant success when it premiered in 1959. However, the titanic reputation of Lorraine Hansberry's masterpiece has obscured the legacy of black playwrights who preceded her. While she was the first black woman to have a play produced on Broadway, and the first black writer honored with the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, several playwrights of the Harlem Renaissance had succeeded in bringing their work to Broadway in previous decades. Of course, African-American plays had been appearing in other venues for much longer, beginning possibly with James Brown's The Drama of King Shotaway, which appeared in 1823 at the African Theater on Mercer Street. Exactly a century later, Willis Richardson's one act The Chip Woman's Fortune opened on Broadway, nearly four decades before Raisin. Garland Anderson's Appearances went up in 1925, and Wallace Thurman's Harlem, which scandalized audiences with its depiction of the "slow drag" (a dance Walter Lee and Ruth perform in Raisin), opened in 1929. And while he is most famous for his poetry, Hansberry's friend and mentor Langston Hughes was an accomplished playwright who had several pieces, including the 1935 Mulatto: A Play of the Deep South, produced on Broadway. All in all, more than twenty black dramatists preceded Hansberry on Broadway stages – though the work of black women, including Angelina Weld Grimke and Eulalie Spence, was confined to smaller stages. While it is undoubtedly a testament to Hansberry's talent and vision that she eclipsed her predecessors, her success owed much to their endeavors.

The Huntington's current production of A Raisin In The Sun, directed by Liesl Tommy, runs through April 7, 2013 at the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre. Learn more at

March 15, 2013

Reverse the Curse: A RAISIN IN THE SUN

 This past Wednesday night marked a miracle: Liesl Tommy finally opened a Huntington show on schedule. Liesl’s previous two Huntington Openings were canceled –from a huge snowstorm January 5, 2011 (Ruined) and because of the Back Bay Blackout in March 13-14, 2012 (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). But the third time is a charm, and A Raisin In The Sun went off without a hitch!
To be fair, rehearsals for this production were delayed by a half-day due to the Blizzard of 2013 (an actor got stuck across the country), and then last Friday’s snowstorm arrived on the run’s first preview. It’s been a nerve-wracking month to say the least, but we made it through, and if the reviews pouring in are any indication, Liesl has done some tremendous work on this production. 
Which of course is no surprise to us. We love Liesl and her work, which is why we keep having her back in spite of the bad luck that seems to follow her to Boston.
Celebrating with Liesl tonight: the cast, Huntington staff, Trustees, and Overseers, Jon Abbott (WGBH), Karen Holmes Ward (WCVB), Rep. Gloria Fox, Attorney Wendell Taylor (Huntington Overseer), and Cambridge resident and Director of the Lorraine Hansberry Trust Joi Gresham. Gresham was Hansberry’s widower’s step-daughter, grew up in the playwright’s house after her death, and was greatly influenced by her work. Here's a picture of Liesl and Joi before the show on Wednesday night:

A Raisin In The Sun (which, incidentally, celebrated the 54th anniversary of its Broadway debut on Monday) runs through Sunday, April 7 at the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre. The Boston Globe calls it, "A shattering production [that] reminds us how fully and richly Raisin continues to reverberate....All the passion Hansberry poured into her play comes surging through in the performances by Tommy's ensemble." Tickets are still on sale, but they're going fast, so don't miss out!

March 13, 2013

2013 Poetry Out Loud MA State Finals

From Meg O'Brien, Manager of Education Operations
We are thrilled to introduce you to Courtney Stewart, our 2013 Poetry Out Loud Champion.  This image, captured by David Marshall at the moment his name was announced as Champion, captures the spirit of the program perfectly.

This past Sunday, 23 students from all across Massachusetts met at the Old South Meeting House in the heart of historic Boston to compete for the title of State Champion.  It was one of the toughest competitions we’ve seen in the 8 years of facilitating this program. Every contestant brought such unique power, eloquence, and talent to their recitations, it was difficult to anticipate what the judges would ultimately choose as the winning poet.

A freshman from Springfield Central High School, Courtney performed three poems with such grace and power, he was quickly a favorite among many, as was evident by many conversations overheard during the break regarding which student might win the coveted prize.

His selections:

Courtney will travel, all expenses paid, to Washington DC at the end of April to compete at the National Competition.  I personally cannot wait to support him in this next leg of the journey, and look forward to watching him represent the Huntington, his school, and our state at the competition.

Courtney is only the second male contestant to win the Massachusetts Championship.  Vinh Hua from Boston Latin School took home the title in 2006, the first year of POL.   Stay tuned for more information on the National Finals, and follow along in Courtney’s journey!

Sabrina Accime (Top 6, left) and Micayla Rivin (2nd Runner Up, right) look on as Courtney Stewart  (center) reacts to being named the 2013 Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud Champion. Photo credit: David Marshall.

Other tidbits about Poetry Out Loud 2013

  • 82 Schools registered
  • 20,900 students participated in the program across Massachusetts
  • 71 Students participated at the Semi-Finals
  • 23 Finalists:
    • Anagha Indic from Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School
    • Ben Rutan from Algonquin Regional High School
    • Raphe Gilliam from Amherst High School
    • Lily Bunyea from Barnstable High School
    • Allie Hardy from Burlington High School
    • Latanya Simpson from Codman Academy Charter Public School
    • Samantha Salem from Dracut Senior High School
    • Erin Hebert from Holyoke High School
    • Devon Flanagan from Groton-Dunstable Regional High school
    • Michelle Beaulieu from Masconomet Regional High School
    • Sabrina Accime from Meridian Academy
    • Micayla Rivin from Needham High School
    • Kathryn Holaday from Newburyport High School
    • Ryan Kramer from Norwell High School
    • Justin von Bosau from Prospect Hill Academy
    • Stephanie Igharosa from Randolph High School
    • Christopher Carchedi from Rockland High School
    • Lydia King from Salem Academy Charter School
    • Courtney Stewart from Springfield Central High School
    • Molly Brennan from Sturgis Charter Public School East
    • Jackie Thomsen from Swampscott High School
    • Mikayla Mitchell from Westfield High School
  • Top 6:
    • Sabrina Accime
    • Stephanie Igharosa (1st Runner Up)
    • Micayla Rivin (2nd Runner Up)
    • Courtney Stewart (Champion)
    • Jackie Thomsen
    • Justin von Bosau

March 12, 2013

A RAISIN IN THE SUN #Twittermission Roundup

This past Friday night we hosted our second #Twittermission event, encouraging the audience to tweet us questions about the production to be answered by an artist involved the show. We were lucky enough to be joined by Omar Robinson, currently serving as the assistant to Raisin director Liesl Tommy as well as a living triumvirate of man, myth, and legend. Omar has a long history with the Huntington -- he's assistant directed on several other productions such as Now Or Later and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, plus he's offered his acting talents to many of our staged readings. He was also a tremendous help last year in preparing our new website for launch. So basically, Omar's awesome, end of story.

We were also joined in #Twittermission by the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia, who are also producing A Raisin In The Sun  (and by further coincidence were also hosting a similar young patron's event that night). The Arden approached us after hearing about #Twittermission at a recent theatre conference with the idea of hosting the event in collaboration with one another. If the point of #Twittermission is to carry on the conversation beyond the particular performance on any given night, what better way to continue and cultivate a larger discussion than to do so in conjunction with another theatre in another city? Yes, that was a lot of "c" words, but it really helps to bring the art beyond the local spectrum and remind us that we're all part of a larger community. Though some of the questions that came in were specific to one of our productions, a lot of the questions pertained more to the play in general, and it was interesting to see how these productions responded to the same questions.

Here's are the tweets as they took place on Friday night (we'll share the Arden's answers when applicable as well):
How did you envision bringing such strong female relationships to the stage? 

 where does the title A Raisin in the Sun come from? 

A: "A poem by Langston Hughes called 'A Dream Deferred'. Too long to tweet here sadly!" - 

 the title comes from Langston Hughes' poem " Harlem" what happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up, like ?

 is  set in a particular city or is it supposed to be a random Midwest/northeast city?

A: "RAISIN is set in south side Chicago." 

 it's specifically south side of Chicago 

Q: Team George or Team Asagai?  

A: "George has the money, but I'm a dreamer, so I have to go with Team Asagai."  

Hi Omar! I love the set and am curious how the actors adapted to the turntable.  

A: "Quite easily! And without getting seasick."  

Q: "The music doesn't seem very period. What's up with that?" 

A: "Since we're telling a story that has to do with both now and then, it helps to merge the two time periods."  

 curious to hear about your musical choices! We have original comps & period music. Dinah Washington, for ex

 We'll get you a better / more "official" answer, but Liesl (director) likes to use hip-hop to connect to the modern day.

 Unfortunately, there's no intermission for Ryan Landry's "M", which makes it kind of hard to do another #Twittermission event that night, but we'll let you know the date for Rapture, Blister, Burn as soon as we lock it down. Thanks again to the Arden and all of our question-askers for their participation in making this experiment a success. Hopefully, it will continue to grow, but in the meantime, let us know if you have any suggestions or requests for ways in which we can integrate social media into our performances without being intrusive to the performers.

March 6, 2013

A Raisin In The Sun Tech Week

The cast and crew of our new production of A Raisin In The Sun have been working over the past few weeks to bring Liesl Tommy's fresh new vision of this timeless American classic to the stage. Cast members Keona Welch (Beneatha), LeRoy McClain (Walter Lee), Kimberly Scott (Lena), and Ashley Everage (Ruth) were kind enough to take some time out of their busy rehearsal schedule to share their experiences with the play so far (and sing some more praise for the always-wonderful Liesl Tommy):

And if you want to get really excited about the show, the load-in crew was clever enough to sneak a few surreptitious photographs of the set-in-progress, and we gotta say, it looks pretty cool. But don't take our word for it! Here's a few pictures, courtesy of Calderwood House Electrician Mercedes Roman-Manson:

And from Master Electrician Kat Herzig...

Plus a cool peak at our Wall-Of-Lights in motion (this sure is the season of big lighting, huh?)

March 5, 2013

This Friday -- Join the Party with #35Below!

Theatre is one of the oldest human art forms, but somewhere along the way, it developed a stigma as being for “old people.” There’s plenty of sociological and cultural history that can explain this — cost, tradition, increasing accessibility to movies / television, etc — but it’s not the “why” that we’re concerned about. The more important question is, how do we change it? We’ve tried a number of different methods over the last ten years or so to get a younger audience into the theatre with specially priced tickets, but these initiatives were met with varying degrees of success. Even when we present new plays like The Miracle at Naples that might appeal more to us hip young urbanites (kidding, guys, kidding. I’m 27), it’s remained a constant challenge.

Then about three years ago, we formed a committee of staff members under the age of 35 and thought about what we could do that would get people like, well, us into the theatre (most of us were honestly surprised to find that we already offered $25 tickets for anyone under the age of 35*), and in March of 2010, we threw our first official 35 Below Wrap Party for Becky Shaw. This exclusive after party gave 35 Below patrons a chance to meet and hang with the cast & crew of the production, plus access to cheap drinks and a live band, all for the price of an already-stupidly-cheap ticket.

Let’s recap: $25 gets you (1) tickets to a play, plus (2) an after party with (a) a live band and (b) cheap drinks. All personal bias aside, this is probably the single best deal you can find for a night out in Boston.

Our next 35 Below event is a special pre-show party THIS Friday, March 8 at 6:30pm. Join us at Five Napkin Burger on Huntington Avenue for some complimentary food and cash bar in a private room, before we head over to the theatre as a group to catch the 8pm performance of A Raisin In The Sun. We'll also be hosting our next #Twittermission event that night, with answers from Raisin Assistant Director Omar Robinson, so make sure you tweet your questions to the @huntington ahead of time!

After that, our next 35 Below Wrap Party is Friday, March 29, after the first preview performance of Ryan Landry’s “M”, and then we have another one coming up on Friday, May 31 for Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn. 35 Below patrons can purchase $25 tickets are any Huntington performance, but the Wrap Party itself is the best deal on the block, so tickets go fast. Both events are sponsored by our friends at Magners USA because c’mon, who doesn’t like a little hard cider with their German film noir puppets and scathing Feminist comedy? (Don’t answer that)

Here's a (slightly older) video giving you a look at one of our 35 Below parties. We hope to see you at our next one!

*Because we believe that theatre should be accessible for everyone, regardless of age, we also offer a limited number of $25 tickets to every performance for absolutely anyone. Simply ask when you call the Box Office, or check the Prices & Seating tab on our website for location information when buying tickets online.