Eastern Michigan University’s main stage theatre production of “A Raisin in the Sun” opens on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play tells the story of the Youngers, an African American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s, as they stand on the brink of inheriting a large insurance check and deal with how best to spend the money and make better lives for themselves.
The play was a milestone when it opened in 1959; it was the first Broadway show by an American woman of African descent, and Lloyd Richards, the first American director of African descent, directed the production.
Wallace Bridges, who has been a professor of Theatre Arts at EMU since 1992, is directing this production.
Bridges was awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant last year, and that took him to the University of Ghana-Accra in Africa from January to June 2016, where he taught theatre courses and directed a production of “A Raisin in the Sun.”
“The play holds a special place in my heart…” Bridges said in a piece he wrote for the U.S Embassy in Ghana on Medium.com, dated Feb. 19, 2016. “I have read, seen, taught, acted in and directed it numerous times over the decades. My first recollection is from the 1960s, when I saw the original film version with Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil and Ruby Dee. The film made quite an impression on me, and Poitier’s performance helped me realize that I could possibly act as well.”
Bridges is currently in the process of making a documentary about the two productions, comparing the two rehearsal processes. The actors were filmed during much of their rehearsals, an uncommon occurrence for EMU theatre productions.
Prince Priestly, a junior theatre arts major, said, “I honestly think it’s one of the best shows I’ve worked on. Everyone has amazing chemistry with each other, and it’s super interesting to be videotaped and interviewed.”
Ethan Danke, a senior English major, plays one of the show’s only white characters. He sees the character as serving a very specific and necessary purpose. “My role is to show that not all racism is in your face and easy to find,” he said. “Some, if not most of it, is hidden through the most minor actions.”
Deanna Amaker, a senior theatre major, said, “I really enjoyed working with the group of people on this show. It’s so nice to see people come together at a time like this, telling a story about a black family. It’s important and powerful.”
“A Raisin in the Sun” will play at EMU’s Sponberg Theatre, located in the Quirk Theatre building, Feb. 8, 9, 10, 11 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 11 and 12 at 2 p.m. The show is recommended for ages 13 and up. Tickets can be purchased at www.emutix.com