“A Raisin in the Sun” unveils racial tensions

What happens to a dream deferred?

This is the question that the play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry aims to answer. The play takes place in Chicago during the 1950s and addresses issues such as domestic and racial tensions, oppressive forces and feminism.

From Jan. 28 to Feb. 18, Triad Stage is performing a production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” directed by Dallas, Texas-based director and actor Tiffany Greene.

“A Raisin in the Sun” focuses on the life of the Younger family. Grandmother Lena Younger lives with her two children, Beneatha and Walter Lee Younger, along with Walter Lee’s wife, Ruth Younger and their son, Travis Younger. While the family works to earn enough money to pay the rent on their one-bedroom apartment in 1950s Chicago, they receive a $10,000 life insurance check.

After receiving this check, the family tries to figure out how it can allow them to accomplish their dream while overcoming the racial discrimination that they face on a daily basis.

“I think that this play, even though it takes place over 60 years ago, is relevant to right now,” said actress Angela Thomas, who plays Ruth Younger in the play. “(It’s about) things that African-Americans still face, struggles in our families, struggles in communities, in our own communities, in white communities.”

Attendees of the play, such as Jamestown resident Aharon Hronek, expressed similar sentiments on the relevance of the play.

“It’s about struggle and change and … assimilation,” said Hronek. “We are constantly in the midst of that. We are in the midst of that in a big way right now.”

In addition to racial struggles, “A Raisin in the Sun” also highlights feminism and women in society.

“In this show, you get three very different, strong in their own way, women handling things and navigating their way through life, and it is a beautiful thing to watch,” said actress Anita Welch, who plays Beneatha Younger. “It is just as important as it was when it first came out as it is today, when we are in the middle of a women’s movement.

“(The play is) encouraging women to be strong and to go and make their dreams come true and to stand up for themselves.”

The struggles that the Younger family faces in “A Raisin in the Sun” seem to parallel the struggles being faced in society today.

“The more things change, the more things stay the same,” said actress Karen Vicks, who portrays Lena Younger. “And unfortunately, in this day and time, we find ourselves fighting for our rights all over again and again and again.”

While the play highlights feminist ideas and issues of social class division, the main focus of “A Raisin in the Sun” is the struggle of African-American families.

“It centers on African-American culture,” said actor Edward O’Blenis, who portrays Walter Lee Younger in the production. “And I think we all probably have our own idea of what the significance is, but I think the significance of it culturally is the theme of pride and being proud to be black.

“Being proud to be who you are and striving to transcend whatever difficulty you have.”

With cultural relevance, “A Raisin in the Sun” can provide insight on the things happening around them.

“I think that it is completely relevant to things that we deal with on an everyday basis in an African-American culture,” said Thomas. “Being told that we don’t belong and not just African-Americans, with all minorities, and so I think that the significance is present now.

“It reigns true right now.”

“A Raisin in the Sun” allowed audience members to relate to the challenges faced by the Younger family through their own past experiences and struggles.

“I hope that people will use it as an opportunity to self examine,” said Thomas. “One of the great things about theater is that you come and sit in a room and watch people imitate life. And a lot of the time, as an audience member, you find a character that you relate most with, that you identify with.”

Despite facing incredible struggles, the Younger family reminds audience members that their bonds can help them through the toughest of times.

“It comes back to that unconditional love,” said Vicks. “We are not perfect, but neither is the world either.”