Ms. Lorraine Hansberry’s famous play, ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ centers on the Youngers, a lower-class African-American family grappling with life priorities, who buy a house in a white neighborhood where they are offered a sum of money to stay away.
The play made history, becoming the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway in 1959 where it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It also received four Tony nominations over its initial two-year run. The New York Times has hailed it as “A play that changed American Theater forever.
The original Broadway production starred a young Sidney Poitier as Walter Lee Younger. Poitier reprised his role for the Columbia Pictures film adaptation in 1961 which won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival.
On the 30th anniversary of the Broadway premiere of ‘Raisin’, PBS aired a three-hour TV version of the play featuring Danny Glover as Walter Lee Younger.
Director Bill Duke told the Los Angeles Times, “This play transcends time and race. It applies to all poor people. What Lorraine says is something that should be said often: Folks that don’t have money, folks that society looks down its nose at, are some of the noblest spirits among us.”
Sean P. Diddy Combs and Phylicia Rashad
‘Raisin’ returned to Broadway for the second time on its 45th anniversary, with rapper/producer/fashion designer Sean “P. Diddy” Combs taking on the challenge of playing the part of Walter Lee Younger opposite Phylicia Rashad of ‘The Cosby Show’ fame.
Commenting on his experience with the project, Combs said, “This is definitely a huge undertaking. It’s something that has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done – even harder than the marathon. At this point of my life, it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done because it’s so intense, it’s so emotional, it’s so hard.”
The production made history at the 2004 Tony Awards when Phylicia Rashad was honored with the ‘Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play’ trophy, becoming the first African-American woman to receive the honor.
On April 3rd 2014, ten years after directing the 2004 Broadway production, director Kenny Leon cast Oscar-winning veteran actor Denzel Washington as Walter Lee Younger and brought the classic play back to ‘The Great White Way’ in the same Ethel Barrymore Theater which was used for the original 1959 production.
When asked why ‘Raisin’ was returning to Broadway after only ten years, this is what Leon had to say to Broadway.com “This is the play that keeps on giving. If all the other great American plays – Death of a Salesman, Streetcar, A Moon for the Misbegotten – if they have been done every four or five years, surely [it’s time] to revisit ‘A Raisin in the Sun’.”