The Guthrie Theater (Joseph Haj, Artistic Director) today announced casting for Lorraine Hansberry’s theatrical masterpiece A Raisin in the Sun, directed by acclaimed Twin Cities artist Austene Van. A Raisin in the Sun will play January 8 – February 12, 2022, on the McGuire Proscenium Stage. Single tickets start at $15 for preview performances (January 8–13). All other performances range from $26 to $80. Tickets are on sale now through the Box Office at 612.377.2224, 1.877.447.8243 (toll-free) or online at guthrietheater.org. Accessibility services (ASL-interpreted, audio-described, open-captioned and relaxed performances) are available on select dates. For up-to-date information about the Guthrie’s health and safety policies, visit www.guthrietheater.org/health.
Artistic Director Joseph Haj stated, “Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is simply one of the great American plays, and its themes of aspiration, family and dreams deferred are as relevant now as they were 60 years ago. I’m thrilled for the Guthrie to produce this powerful play for the first time during our return season, and I’m honored to have Austene Van, one of the Twin Cities’ remarkable talents, at the helm.”
Director Austene Van said, “Lorraine Hansberry’s body of work is not only brilliant, it is revolutionary and alive. And it is our charge, through this production, to continue her activism.” Van continued, “Inside the Younger family’s South Side Chicago apartment, we will witness tenacity, joy, heartbreak, buoyancy, pride and dignity of a real family navigating real obstacles through real circumstances. I hope our audiences will see themselves in this family, no matter their ZIP code, and be moved into action.”
“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” In 1951, poet Langston Hughes posed these questions, and Lorraine Hansberry answered with a theatrical masterpiece that broke down racial barriers both on and off the stage. The play follows the three-generation Younger family as they grapple with different definitions of the American dream and how to achieve it. When the matriarch, Lena, buys a home in an all-white neighborhood, the Youngers are greeted by thinly veiled racism and financial pitfalls that threaten to pull the family apart and push their dreams out of reach.
A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway in 1959 and, for the first time, hailed an all-Black principal cast, a Black playwright and a Black director. The play was nominated for four Tony Awards, and Hansberry was the first Black woman to be produced on Broadway and the first Black playwright to win a New York Film Critics Circle Award. Hansberry’s other plays include The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, which was produced shortly before her death in 1965, and Les Blancs, which was in draft form at her death and premiered on Broadway in 1970, edited by her ex-husband Robert Nemiroff. Some of her unfinished writings were adapted into the play To Be Young, Gifted and Black in 1969 and also produced posthumously.
Though Hansberry’s career was cut short, her legacy has been bountiful. Among the plays inspired by or in conversation with Raisin are Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Beneatha’s Place, Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, Neighbors by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, The Etiquette of Vigilance by Robert O’Hara and Living Green by Gloria Bond Clunie. In 2009, the Guthrie presented a Penumbra Theatre/Arizona Theatre Company/Cleveland Play House production of A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Lou Bellamy on the McGuire Proscenium Stage. This is the first Hansberry play to be produced by the Guthrie Theater. Hansberry’s Les Blancs was originally scheduled for the Guthrie’s 2020‒2021 Season, but the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cast of A Raisin in the Sun includes Jamecia Bennett (Guthrie: Caroline, or Change) as Mrs. Johnson, Ernest Bentley (Guthrie: Appomattox, The Burial at Thebes) as Joseph Asagai, Darius Dotch (Guthrie: debut) as Moving Man, JaBen A. Early (Guthrie: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, We Are Proud To Present…) as Walter Lee Younger, Tonia Jackson (Guthrie: Appomattox, The Darker Face of the Earth) as Lena Younger, JuCoby Johnson (Guthrie: Noises Off, BAD NEWS! i was there…) as George Murchison, Joshaviah (Guthrie: debut) as Travis Younger (alternating performances), Jim Lichtscheidl (Guthrie: Twelfth Night, Nice Fish, Clybourne Park, The Legend of Georgia McBride) as Karl Lindner, Adolphe Magloire Jr. (Guthrie: debut) as Travis Younger (alternating performances), Nubia Monks (Guthrie: debut) as Beneatha Younger, Darrick Mosley (Guthrie: Choir Boy) as Bobo and Anita Welch (Guthrie: debut) as Ruth Younger.
The creative team for A Raisin in the Sun includes Austene Van (Director), Regina García (Scenic Designer), Samantha Fromm Haddow (Costume Designer), Alan C. Edwards (Lighting Designer), Jeff Lowe Bailey (Sound Designer), Taylor Barfield (Production Dramaturg), Evamarii Johnson (Voice and Dialect Coach), Annette M. Enneking (Fight Director), Sasha Smith (Intimacy Coach), Jennifer Liestman (Resident Casting Director), Laura Topham (Stage Manager) and Lori Lundquist (Assistant Stage Manager).
Lorraine Hansberry (Playwright) was a playwright, activist and essayist born in Chicago on May 19, 1930. After studying theater at the University of Wisconsin for two years and traveling abroad to raise awareness for various causes, she moved to Harlem in New York City. Hansberry finished A Raisin in the Sun in 1957, and it premiered on Broadway two years later. For the first time, a play hailed an all-Black principal cast, a Black playwright and a Black director. A Raisin in the Sun was nominated for four Tony Awards, and Hansberry was the first Black woman to be produced on Broadway. An important voice of her generation, Hansberry’s career was cut short when she died of pancreatic cancer in 1965 at age 34. Her other plays include The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and Les Blancs, and her unfinished writings were adapted into the play To Be Young, Gifted and Black in 1969.
Austene Van (Director) is an actor, director and choreographer as well as a co-founder of New Dawn Theatre Company and Producing Artistic Director at Yellow Tree Theatre. She is a 2013–2014 McKnight Fellowship recipient, Ivey Award winner for the Guthrie’s production of Trouble in Mind and Woodie Award nominee for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for playing multiple roles in Spunk and The Colored Museum at The Black Rep in St. Louis. She has directed at Yellow Tree Theatre (The Royale), the Ordway (Annie, named Best Play in the City Pages Best of 2018 list), Skylight Music Theatre (Hot Mikado), Ten Thousand Things (Intimate Apparel), the Ordway’s McKnight Theatre (Blues in the Night), Park Square Theatre (Gee’s Bend, Hot Chocolate, Lady Day…), Penumbra Theatre (Black Nativity, 2006–2008), History Theatre (Lonely Soldiers: Women at War in Iraq, A Civil War Christmas), Capri Theater (Ain’t Misbehavin’) and Theatre in the Round (Six Degrees of Separation). Van’s stage credits at the Guthrie Theater include Familiar, Disgraced, Trouble in Mind, Crowns and The Darker Face of the Earth. She was last seen on the Guthrie stage playing Truvy in the 2019 production of Steel Magnolias.
This production of A Raisin in the Sun is sponsored by Ameriprise Financial.
Health and Safety Information
All ticket holders must show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a lab-certified negative COVID-19 PCR test result received within 72 hours prior to entry, plus a valid photo ID, to attend a performance at the Guthrie. Self-administered tests will not be accepted. Ticket holders under age 18 may provide a school photo ID or an official school document with the student’s name. Masks that securely cover the nose and mouth are required. A complete list of Guthrie requirements for masking, vaccination and testing is available at www.guthrietheater.org/health.
The Guthrie Theater acknowledges that it resides on the traditional land of the Dakota People and honors with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations, including the Ojibwe and other Indigenous nations.
The GUTHRIE THEATER (Joseph Haj, Artistic Director) is an American center for theater performance in Minneapolis, Minnesota, dedicated to producing a mix of classic and contemporary plays and cultivating the next generation of theater artists. Under Haj’s leadership, the Guthrie is guided by four core values: Artistic Excellence; Community; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and Fiscal Responsibility. Since its founding in 1963, the theater has continued to set a national standard for excellence in the field and serve the people of Minnesota as a vital cultural resource. The Guthrie houses three state-of-the-art stages, production facilities, classrooms, restaurants and dramatic public spaces. guthrietheater.org