Every year, we celebrate Arts Month in October to elevate the visibility and importance of arts & culture in our community. The official call to action during this month is to “have at least one new cultural experience with family or friends during the month of October!”
With that elevation of art in mind, I would like to introduce you to the play “A Raisin in the Sun.” Don’t worry, this suggestion is deeply political. I haven’t forgotten the mandate of this column.
“A Raisin in the Sun” — was the first play authored by an African-American to appear on Broadway in 1959. The landmark drama was one of the first to examine black life on the edge of the Civil Rights era. For the first time an audience was given insight into the struggles and worldview of an African-American family dealing with not only internal familial challenges but the external racial challenges that came with life in America during that time.
The main characters of the drama, Walter Younger and his mother, Lena, both yearn to move their family out of Chicago’s southside ghetto. When Lena’s late husband’s insurance check arrives, Lena hopes to use it to buy a house in a “white” neighborhood — while Walter hopes to invest it in a liquor business. Both the conflicts within the family and direct reflection of their lives in a societal context outside of the family made for riveting performances both on Broadway and later in film.
The play has always done well both on and off Broadway but is enjoying a new generation of viewers in 2018. The play is being performed all over the country – perhaps in answer to increased racial and political tensions that we see today. Colorado Springs is a surprising stop for a play like this.
Our very own, TheatreWorks — UCCS’ professional theater company is presenting the play until October 21, 2018. This play was named best play by the New York Drama Critics’ Circle after its Broadway debut.
In its press release, The TheatreWorks says: “In a time when equity and authenticity of representation are at the forefront of national dialogue, Nambi Kelley [a black director] has assembled not only a wonderful cast, but also a design team composed of outstanding artists of color.
The play brings its message to life today. In some ways, “A Raisin in the Sun” addresses issues that we struggle with in Colorado today. Through the story, we can give some extended thought to class housing segregation and racial discrimination in housing.
These things certainly do not happen as often as in 1959, but they do still happen from time to time.
Ironically, when racial discrimination was common – and in fact the real estate and legal norm for our society — it was not news. And in 2018 when racial discrimination in housing is rare — those occurrences make national headlines.
We need some type of balance in the way that these problems are presented by media to us.
Regardless, most of us are not well versed in matters of race or class. In addition, many of us lack understanding about what is happening in housing markets today and how on a class basis some are adversely affected.
We need a non-threatening examination of how those issues are showing up in politics in 2018. No matter what your place is on the political spectrum, I recommend that you see “A Raisin in the Sun”. It is playing at the Ent Center for the Arts until October 21st.
A play like this can show us who we used to be. Through art like this, we hold a mirror to who we are today. We can ask ourselves the question, “Have we made progress?” or “How much progress have we made.”
Then we can dare to examine the data and see what the answers really are.
Go and see the play.
Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.