Renowned playwright Lorraine Hansberry is represented at The Public Theater for the first time with her best-known play, A Raisin in the Sun, in fall 2022. Get A Raisin in the Sun tickets on New York Theatre Guide.
A Raisin in the Sun is a play about one family's experiences with racism and housing discrimination as they try to make a better life for themselves. The Younger family is five strong: Walter and Ruth, their son Travis, and Walter's mother and sister, Lena and Beneatha. They share a two-bedroom apartment on Chicago's South Side in the mid-20th century, and they're barely making ends meet. Change seems on the horizon when the family receives a life insurance check for $10,000 following the death of Walter's father (Lena's husband). Lena uses some of it to put a down payment on a better house in an affordable neighborhood, but the Youngers receive backlash from its white residents that want to avoid the "tension" of integration.
The rest ends up in the hands of Walter, whose attitude toward money is influenced by acquaintances of his sister. Beneatha's boyfriend George represents assimilation, denying his African heritage, while her friend Joseph embraces his heritage and encourages Beneatha to do the same. George, with his wealth and power, at first represents what Walter wants to become, but he finds himself questioning whether denying his Blackness is worth wealth.
Hansberry's portrait of mid-century Black life premiered on Broadway in 1959. It was the first show by a Black female playwright on Broadway, and the first Broadway show with a Black director (Lloyd Richards). In a departure from the trajectory of most shows today, though, the play toured first before hitting Broadway. Producers were hesitant to mount A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway because they weren't sure whether 1960s audiences would respond to a nearly all-Black cast, but positive reviews from the tour convinced them.
A Raisin in the Sun would go on to critical and audience success, getting four Tony Award nominations including Best Play. Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times that Hansberry's work "changed American theater forever," as it brought more Black audiences to Broadway and opened white Broadway audiences up to the Black experience. The show played 530 Broadway performances, running just under a year; launched another tour; and got a film adaptation featuring the Broadway cast, led by Sidney Poitier as Walter Younger.
The show has gotten two Broadway revivals: one in 2004 — which made Phylicia Rashad the first Black woman to win the Best Leading Actress in a Play Tony Award for her role as Lena, and got Audra McDonald her fourth Tony for playing Ruth — and another in 2014. The show has been performed numerous other times across the U.S. and the globe, but it's never appeared at The Public Theater until now.
Robert O'Hara directs A Raisin in the Sun off Broadway, months after helming the Public's Shakespeare in the Park production of Richard III with Danai Gurira. In the 2021-22 theatre season, he also helmed the encore engagement of Slave Play on Broadway — the premiere engagement of which got him a Tony nomination in 2020 — and Long Day's Journey into Night off Broadway.
Tickets to A Raisin in the Sun in New York are available now.