On the cusp of the opening of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin In The Sun, Westport Country Playhouse's final mainstage production for its 2012-2013 season, Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy stopped by the Westport Arts Center to share some photographic images that represent where and when the play takes place. In "Art That Tells the Truth: Chicago Street Photography in the 20th Century," Mr. Kennedy provides a historic, economic and visual perspective that would hopefully enhance an understanding of the characters and themes prevelent in the drama about a poor African-American family living in the Southside of Chicago in 1959.
As he displayed photos of cramped apartments and stark courtyards, where young children invariably played, the dichotomy between the decaying tenament buildings, where the impoverished dwelled, and the Chicago's reputation as a city of progress and modernity was evident.
As part of the Great Migration, many families with strong ties to the Deep South, moved north so they could have a shot at realizing dreams that could never be manifested where their ancestors grew up. One of the central themes of "Raisin" is dreams that must be deferred. The play's title is taken from Langston Hugh's poetry “Harlem.” Hansberry quotes at the beginning of the play, “What happens to a dream deferred?/Does it dry up/ Like a raisin in the sun.”
Kennedy's presentation Friday night at the Westport Arts Center is one of several initiatives planned to provide the Playhouse's audiences with a rich theater experience that goes beyond its footlights.
“This is the third year in a row we've undertaken such an ambitious initiative and each year has been better than the last,” said Mr. Kennedy. “Our 21 community partners—representing the broadest possible range of artistic and scholarly disciplines, as well as social service organizations—have helped immeasurably in creating a wide-ranging schedule of events that investigate this play and its many resonant themes. I think 'What Happens to a Dream Deferred' will prove enlightening, engaging, entertaining and inspiring, everything that we want these supplemental programs to be.”
On behalf of the Westport Arts Center. Visual Arts Director Helen Klisser During was delighted to partner with the Playhouse on exploring the questions of 'What Happens to Dreams Deferred.”
Ms. During said, “The theater is about telling stories and bringing insights into people's lives. The Arts Center is also about being a meeting place where people could come together and talk about what's going on visually around us.”
Working closely with the McGivney Center in Bridgport, Ms. During and Mr. Kennedy compiled an exhibit of street scenes taken by local youth, called “Images of Home and Family: a Photographic Exhibit.” Mr. Kennedy explained that students were given “a crash course on street photography” before being given disposable cameras. “They've taken some really nice shots,” he stated.
All photos will be on exhibit in the lobby of the Playhouse during the show's run and on The Playhouse Blog.
Bridgeport students are attending performances of Raisin In The Sun. “We're going back to the McGivney Center to get their impressions of the show,” Ms. During added.
Ms. During encouraged everyone to not miss the Playhouse's production of A Raisin in The Sun. “What I got from the play is, if you have the ability to dream, you a shot of getting there.”
For information about A Raisin in The Sun, and the Westport County Playhouse, call 203-227-4177 and go to westportplayhouse.org.