52 Plays by Women Week 12: A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry
This week I re-read the American classic A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry. The play is on my curriculum for the Introduction to Theatre class I’m teaching at Weber State University. Every time I approach this play I’m always struck with the complexity in each of the characters, the amazing journey they each go on individually and as a family, and the love and humor. Lorraine Hansberry had so much care for her characters, and it shows in each page. It’s a play with so much heart that never feels over the top of saccharine. Oh, I love it.
In this most recent re-read something that struck me was the specificity of this family, of these characters, and how that creates a powerful universality. Whenever I teach writing I tend to talk about the urge to make universal stories and how that often can lead us down the path of general drivel. I talk about the power in the specific, and how the details that feel like they could only possibly mean something to one person, actually unlocks the work to a much larger audience.
I lost my Grandma at the end of last month, she was the matriarch of my family. It wasn’t a surprise or out of the blue, on the contrary we saw this coming for the past eight months or so. I had many opportunities to grieve her throughout this time, as she slipped away, which made her death feel different to me than when a loved one is lost suddenly. Rereading A Raisin In The Sun felt like a final scrabble game with my grandma. Her and Lena Younger couldn’t be more different, but that powerful matriarch figure brought my grandma front and center through my reading. And I think it’s the strength of Hansberry’s specificity that allowed my brain to draw that comparison and give me the feeling that I got to spend an additional three act play bantering back and forth with her.
All of this to say, that reading A Raisin In The Sun is a heartbreaking and enlightening experience, that’s present no matter how many times you’ve had the chance to read the text.
Also present in the play, something that’s always been present, is the structural inequality in this country surrounding race and class. It’s a cherished play to me that’s a joy to teach and dig into. I really enjoy experiencing the play through my students who are often approaching it for the first time. If you’re looking for a phenomenal and inspiring text, a text that also reminds you of how far as a country we have NOT yet gone, and all the work we have left to do, look no further.
Also, if you’re looking for more awesome plays by women to check out, follow 52PlaysByWomen on Twitter, and see what people are reading, watching, and listening to all over the place this year.
Happy theater consuming!