Community Players Prepare to Announce 100e season in January. But with the current production of Lorraine Hansberry’s flagship piece, “A Raisin in the Sun”, the nearly century-old organization is still experiencing premieres.
Performing January 7 at the Community Players Theater in Bloomington, “A Raisin in the Sun” is based on a poem by Langston Hughes, “Harlem”. The play is about the Youngers, a black family living in South Chicago in the mid-20th century. When the family patriarch passes away, his life insurance offers a ticket to middle class life, but no one can agree on how best to get there.
Hailing from Bloomington, Jennifer Rusk has long been seen performing and singing on stage at Community Players and other local staples like the Holiday Spectacular. For her directorial debut, the Illinois State University graduate takes on this great American play – no small feat for a novice director, let alone one working during a pandemic.
Despite the challenges, Rusk said making “A Raisin in the Sun” was a gift to the community.
“This is one of the first African-American plays that has a large African-American ensemble on stage at the Community Players Theater,” Rusk said. “This is such an important event for the players in the community and for Bloomington-Normal.”
Generational conflict is the main theme of the play. As Walter Lee Younger (played by Anthony Overton) seeks to become the head of the family, his mother, Lena (Elaine Hill), clings to old ways, while younger sister Berneatha (Darraugh Griffin) takes on a worldview. more radical.
Rusk said working with an intergenerational cast was like “art imitating life.”
“Elaine Hill is able to talk about the period of the 1950s and how society was in those days for people who came south with the Great Migration,” Rusk said. “While our Berneatha, Darraugh Griffin, is a young college lady and has new thoughts and ideas. “
Berneatha Younger explores her heritage and identity as she interacts with Joseph Asagai (Omo Lolu), a young man from Nigeria. “A Raisin in the Sun” is set in the 1950s, but as black Americans, it’s a theme the entire cast can relate to.
“We are able to draw from our daily lives by living in this skin,” Rusk said. “Our grandparents came from the south and survived Jim Crow. Our parents have passed through the era of “young, gifted and black”. It has transcended the present day and still has to deal with a society where you are faced with assimilation (as opposed to) things like your natural hair or natural black beauty.
On the surface, “A Raisin in the Sun” may seem old-fashioned to Gen Z audiences, but Rusk thinks it’s an evergreen piece everyone should see, tackling controversial modern-day topics including music. discrimination in housing, gender and racial inequality and abortion.
“If we don’t know our history, we are doomed to repeat it,” Rusk said. “Anyone can talk about having a dream and putting it off until later. You might look at this piece and think it’s an African American piece, but it’s an American piece. It’s a human game. It’s a game for everyone.
“A Raisin in the Sun” will take place January 7-16 at the Community Players Theater, 201 Robinhoold Lane, Bloomington, with a preview on Thursday January 6. For tickets and more information, visit communityplayers.org.