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Crossroads Presents A Raisin in the Sun 4/14-5/1

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A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry's landmark drama about the struggles and triumphs of an African American family in the 1950s, makes its first appearance on the stage of the Crossroads Theatre Company in a new production, April 14 through May 1.

Mamie Hansberry, the late playwright's sister, is scheduled to attend the official opening night performance on Saturday, April 16.

Regarded as an American stage classic and groundbreaking portrayal of the African American experience, A Raisin in the Sun cemented Hansberry's place among the literary giants of theater. It debuted on Broadway in 1959 and quickly became required reading in schools across the country. Its story is universal: It is as much about one family's aspirations, dreams and conflicts as every family's.

"This play is our Shakespeare, and the protagonist Walter Lee is our Hamlet," said Marshall Jones III, executive director of Crossroads which is producing the play. "It is as relevant today as it was in the 1950s, as evidenced by a changed response to the Muslim community post 9-11."

In their South-side Chicago apartment, each member of the Younger family envisions the American dream differently in their struggle for a better life. When opportunity arises in the form of a life insurance check promising both hope and uncertainty, they face choices and inevitable disappointment for some of their dreams: Mama wants to buy a house, Walter wants to invest in a liquor store; Beneatha wants to attend medical school. Walter's wife Ruth's unexpected pregnancy threatens to derail the family's dreams altogether.

Presciently, Hansberry raised issues that later became matters for national debate: abortion, black pride, urban decay, educational aspiration in the black community.

A Raisin in the Sun had its roots in the true story of a lawsuit filed by Hansberry's father in collaboration with the NAACP in 1940 against covenants that prevented blacks from purchasing homes in a predominantly white Chicago neighborhood. The family endured years of racial slurs and threats while the suit was in progress. Today, the house is considered a landmark and, according to Hansberry's sister, sits in the same neighborhood as the home of President Barack and Michele Obama.

When Hansberry died at the age of 34 in 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: "Ms. Hansberry's commitment of spirit, her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn."

Directing A Raisin in the Sun is Eric Ruffin, whose most recent directing credits include Old Settler for The African Continuum Theatre Company, Gutta Beautiful at New Federal Theatre, and New Kid for Imagination Stage. Ruffin holds an MFA in directing from Rutgers' Mason Gross School of the Arts and was a protégé of the late Hal Scott, who chaired the directing program at Mason Gross. Mr. Scott was a close associate of Hansberry's and directed the 30th anniversary production of A Raisin in the Sun in New York.

The cast features Petronia Paley ("Another World") as Mama, Jimonn Cole (The Acting Company) as Walter Lee, Chantal Jean-Pierre (Shiela's Day) as Ruth; Vichelle Jones as Beneatha, Gregory Barnes as Travis, Andy Prosky as Lindner, Irungu Mutu as Asagai, and Johnny Ramey as George.

Crossroads Theatre Company was founded in 1978 by Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson with the vision that African-American theater is intended for a broad based diverse audience. As a major force in the development of new ideas and the introduction of formerly marginalized writers, Crossroads produces works that enrich and diversify the representation of African American culture on the American stage. Crossroads has produced more than 40 world premieres and received the Tony Award® in 1999 for Outstanding Regional Theatre in the United States.


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