PBS’ new performance documentary A RAISIN IN THE SUN REVISITED: THE RAISIN CYCLE AT CENTER STAGE explores the history and legacy of Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking 1959 play through the lens of a culturally significant milestone: the staging of two contemporary, issues-oriented plays that Raisin inspired: Bruce Norris’s Tony Award-winning Clybourne Park (which Tennessee Rep successfully produced in Nashville last year) and Beneatha’s Place by Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the State Theater of Maryland, Baltimore’s Center Stage. The program premieres today in Nashville at 8 p.m. on NPT (available over-the-air on 8.1, on Comcast Channel 1008 and Charter Cable channel 708) as part of the PBS ARTS FALL FESTIVAL, which highlights artists and performances from around the country and invites every American into the worlds of music, theater, opera and cultural history.
A Raisin in the Sun was the first Broadway play to depict the strength and humanity of an African-American family striving for a piece of the American dream by buying a house in a white working-class neighborhood in Chicago. More than 50 years later, playwright Norris created Clybourne Park, a sardonic Pulitzer Prize-winning prequel/sequel that takes place in the same Chicago house and revisits the questions of race, real estate and gentrification in America. Inspired by Hansberry’s original and Norris’ follow-up, Kwei-Armah penned Beneatha’s Place, which follows two of the Raisin characters to Nigeria and its post-colonial struggles.
Baltimore’s acclaimed regional theater Center Stage mounted Clybourne Park and Beneatha’s Place in repertory as The Raisin Cycle, in celebration of the theater’s 50th anniversary season. The 60-minute documentary reflects the legacy of Hansberry’s original work and underscores the considerable backstage work that goes into making a performance pairing of this caliber. With two opening nights looming, actors, creative team members, and Center Stage producers talk candidly about their work and the challenges of an unusually demanding rehearsal process. Rehearsals, meetings and costume fittings are paired with footage of Center Stage’s performances, the 1961 film and insights from theater historians.
“Lorraine Hansberry’s original play continues to inspire artists and audiences more than 50 years later,” says Kwei-Armah. “The issues raised by the original work, as well as by Clybourne Park and Beneatha’s Place are vital to the national conversation on race and class, and our hope through staging the two plays simultaneously was to engage the audience and encourage them to consider these issues in their own lives. We’re proud to bring this performance documentary to PBS with the same goal in mind, raising the civic discussion from a local to a national level.”
James Arntz and John Paulson have produced a number of award-winning PBS arts specials over the years, including HOMECOMING: The Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce DiDonato for the 2012 PBS Arts Summer Festival, AMERICAN MASTERS “Les Paul – Chasing Sound,” and “Piano Grand! A Smithsonian Celebration” with the Smithsonian Institution and Maryland Public Television.
After today’s program the remaining PBS ARTS FALL FESTIVAL schedule is as follows (all times CT):
- GREAT PERFORMANCES “Moby-Dick from San Francisco Opera,” Nov. 1, 8 p.m.
- GREAT PERFORMANCES “Stephen Sondheim’s Company with the New York Philharmonic,” Nov. 8, 8 p.m.
- GREAT PERFORMANCES “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!,” Nov. 15, 8 p.m.
- NASHVILLE 2.0: The Rise of Americana, Nov. 22, 8 p.m.
- GREAT PERFORMANCES “Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn,” Nov. 29, 8 p.m.
Here’s a video clip from Center Stage about Beneatha’s Place:
*Photos by Richard Anderson from Beneatha’s Place and Clybourne Park productions courtesy Central Stage and PBS.