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A Raisin in the Sun
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Drama > Group Play - A Raisin in the Sun (Summer '17)

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Leslie | 14633 comments The group play for summer 2017 (July 1 - September 30) is an American 20th century classic, A Raisin in the Sun. Some of you may have seen the movie version with Sidney Poitier...


Pink | 4270 comments I'm glad this has been picked as I meant to read it a few months ago but never got around to it (story of my reading life). Hopefully this will give me the push to pick it up, I'll reserve it again now. I haven't seen the film either and only vaguely know what it's about.


Joan | 1454 comments I know I really enjoyed reading this when I was in school (thousands of years ago). I am looking forward to rereading it - I wonder how accurate my memory is.


Pink | 4270 comments I read this yesterday and was quite underwhelmed really. Perhaps I'll look for a performance to watch and see if I prefer that. I'm glad to have checked it off my list, as it's a play I always hear mentioned, but it seemed a bit pointless to me.


Joan | 1454 comments I've just started, about 30% in, and having a few problems:

1. I feel like my naïveté about the reality of racism is preventing me from truly identifying with the characters & plot. I want to confine it all to my understanding & experience.

2. The Youngers seem like a typical 1950's working-class family, like the Kramdens & Nortons of "The Honeymooners" - yet I know that because they are African-American, their lives are very different- I just feel blind to that part of their lives.

3. I cannot envision them in their own time, so the speech patterns seem unreal & like almost slapstick caricatures.

4. I think watching it would probably be more engaging than reading it is.


Jen from Quebec :0) (MuppetBaby99) | 21 comments I dug through my old books from University and FOUND my copy of the play! ( I KNEW that I had a copy left over from my days at uni...!) So, time for a re-read. Although, it has been SUCH a long time since I read this the 1st time, it is essentially going to feel like a 1st time read all over again! I have good memories of the story, so I hope that this is still the case...---Jen from Quebec :0)


Joan | 1454 comments I only recall suffering from racism once - I was refused service in a diner in another country because I am a fair-skinned American woman. Because it was a new experience & I have an out-sized sense of entitlement, I was totally pissed off.


Joan | 1454 comments "OWIMOWEH" & "OCOMOGOSIAY" shouts reminded me of
https://youtu.be/XJuEuRCKq1s
This one is good but I can't stand the version by The Tokens.


Leslie | 14633 comments Pink wrote: "I read this yesterday and was quite underwhelmed really. Perhaps I'll look for a performance to watch and see if I prefer that. I'm glad to have checked it off my list, as it's a play I always hear..."

If you still want to see a performance, here is a YouTube link to a college performance of the play:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGPH2...
I haven't watched it (though I plan to) so I can't vouch for the quality.

I just finished this play and think it is definitely more powerful when seen. However, I did also notice that parts of it were dated which I hadn't noticed when I saw the Sidney Poitier film the first time (though that is more due to the fact it wasn't dated then!). In particular (view spoiler) is less true today I believe.

However I think that the characters and their relationships still ring true. I thought Beneatha quite amusing with her "fads" and the sniping between brother and sister reminded me of when my brother and I were younger.


Leslie | 14633 comments I just found this interesting tidbit about the title of the play:

It takes its name from this Langston Hughes poem.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

– Langston Hughes, Harlem (Dream Deferred)

The title now makes sense to me and seems fitting -- before I never understood why it was called A Raisin in the Sun!


message 11: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink | 4270 comments That was mentioned in the edition I read too, but they didn't include the poem, so thanks for posting it here. Thanks also for linking to a performance of the play, though I think I might look for the film with Sidney Poitier as I like him.


message 12: by Joan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joan | 1454 comments Leslie wrote: "Pink wrote: "I read this yesterday and was quite underwhelmed really. Perhaps I'll look for a performance to watch and see if I prefer that. I'm glad to have checked it off my list, as it's a play ..."

I found some of the dated bits distracting.

It depends on the neighborhood hood I think. I live in a middle class suburban neighborhood. When one of my friends moved in, 8 yrs ago, she got a snarky note in her mailbox about it being a nice, clean, law-abiding neighborhood and telling her to meet those standards. She is a college professor & one of the few African Americans in our neighborhood. Last year some other friends found KKK recruiting material slipped onto their car while shopping.


Leslie | 14633 comments Joan -- that is so terrible & discouraging! Despite constant reminders to the contrary, I tend to be an optimistic believer that for minorities and poor people, things in the U.S. have improved over the past 60 or so years...


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Joan | 1454 comments Oh yes, I agree, things are much better.


message 15: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil Jensen | 14 comments I love this play. It is my favorite non-Shakespeare play. The last act just puts it over for me.

The Poitier film is good, but not as perfect as the version that plays in my head when I read it.

It's dated in the sense that it reflects an earlier time period. That doesn't put me off because I can still connect to the strength and dignity of the characters.


Jen from Quebec :0) (MuppetBaby99) | 21 comments DAMN....SO happy that I re-read this! Thanks, group! I had to write a bunch of goo about it on my blog

http://www.muppetbabyblog.wordpress.com

but I don't know if group reads' comments allow listing a website or not, so I will try to re-hash my goo here, if need be! --Jen from Quebec :0)


message 17: by Joan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joan | 1454 comments @ Jennifer Lynn
GREAT review. I especially appreciate/share your observations on Beneatha.

I hadn't thought about Hansberry's talent really until you pointed out:

"This one is bumped up to 5 stars. It is not only a great story in general, but as you’re reading, you can ‘see’ how it would be a great, entertaining staged *play*, as well, and that’s what a great playwright can do: make the action on stage come to life for the person reading the drama on the page."


Kathleen | 121 comments I read this last year, but am enjoying the discussion and just have to agree about the exceptional stage directions. That was something that really jumped out at me when I read it.

Like when Walter kneels in front of his Mama, or looks down at his shoes, shifts from one foot to the other. And the way Mama reaches for her plant on the windowsill, feels the dirt and puts it back out.

Quite a bit was expressed in these subtle details.


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Joan | 1454 comments Kathleen wrote: "I read this last year, but am enjoying the discussion and just have to agree about the exceptional stage directions. That was something that really jumped out at me when I read it.

Like when Walt..."


Quite a bit was expressed in those details, which I had absorbed without noticing until you pointed it out, thanks.


message 20: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil Jensen | 14 comments Jennifer Lynn wrote: "DAMN....SO happy that I re-read this! Thanks, group! I had to write a bunch of goo about it on my blog

http://www.muppetbabyblog.wordpress.com

but I don't know if group reads' comments allow list..."


Muppet Babies, Newspeak, Randy Savage, and a five star review for Raisin in the Sun. This is the greatest blog ever.


message 21: by Joan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joan | 1454 comments Can anyone comment/compare the 1961 Poitier/Dee movie and the 1989 Glover/Rolle versions? I was told that the 1989 version stuck more closely to the text.


Leslie | 14633 comments I haven't seen the Danny Glover American Playhouse version but in the introduction to my (library) edition, it did discuss how that production was truer to the original play & restored parts that had been originally cut in both the Poitier film and the first Broadway production.

I have returned my library book so I can't quote exactly but it was an interesting introduction (which I read after I read the play as I don't generally like introductions). In it, the reasons for the cuts and the efforts to get the play produced were described & the fact that after the play had become a success, Hansberry began to feel that some of her meaning was being lost due to the cuts. So I think that she would have liked the American Playhouse version.

I would love to see it; I wonder if my library has it on DVD...


Leslie | 14633 comments So, being unorganized during the past several months I never did announce a theme to go with this play. I guess that there is little point now but since there is still another month to go, maybe it will spark some conversation.

In the back of my mind, I was assuming that the theme would be African-American plays. But upon thinking about it, with so many of our members living outside the U.S., that seemed too restrictive. So how about plays by playwrights of color (regardless of country)?


Leslie | 14633 comments I have listened to the full cast recording of 2 plays by black playwrights during this month:

The first was a contemporary play by Lydia Diamond called Stick Fly. I liked this very much and it felt like a good companion play to A Raisin in the Sun. The 2 plays were pretty different as Diamond's play features a well-to-do black family but that was one reason I thought it was a good companion - it shows how some things have changed and also some things that haven't.

The second play was from a similar time as Hansberry's (1965 so only a few years later). This was Lonne Elder III's play Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, set in the 1950s Harlem. The struggle of this family to better themselves had much in common with the Youngers but the plot was much bleaker. I also missed the strong female characters that the other two plays had. I find it interesting that when I listened to this play, it wasn't obvious that it was set in the 50's. In fact, if I hadn't read that in the blurb I would have thought it was more recent.


message 25: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments I just started re-reading this last night. I do like the non-idealized conversation between family members during the morning routine. I can picture the right actors getting some good laughs in this part.

I'll go back and look at everyone's comments earlier in the thread once I've finished reading.


Leslie | 14633 comments Glad that you are joining in this one Greg!


message 27: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Leslie wrote: "Glad that you are joining in this one Greg!"

:)


message 28: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Got a good laugh out of Mama's dry retort to her sister in law: "Something always told me I wasn't no rich white woman." The right cast would definitely get some good laughs in the first scene despite the difficult living circumstances.

Also, I like how the (view spoiler) is obliquely referred to - a little bit of mystery. Looking forward to finding out where it came from. I've completely forgotten!


message 29: by Greg (last edited Sep 11, 2017 12:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Just finished Act 1, Scene 1. There's actually much more depth and variety in this play than I remembered. I like how the generally comic atmosphere turns serious in a moment as (view spoiler).

So many overlapping sub-themes here:

the differences between the generations ... the way that Bennie has had the benefit of many opportunities Mama has struggled and sacrificed to give her and ironically that very education & opportunity has set a wedge between her and mama in both worldview and temperament. Ruth belongs more to Mama's world than her own children.

Also, there's something so touching about Mama's simple, thwarted desire to have a garden. That garden somehow comes to represent all that Mama has sacrificed. It makes sense to have the curtain fall on that as the stage direction suggests.

As a young man when I'd first read this, I would've given it 3 stars, but I already feel the play creeping up toward 4. This isn't a single-issue political play as I'd I remembered it


Leslie | 14633 comments I find that the interaction between Mama & the two younger women, Bennie & Ruth, is what has really stuck with me; as you say Greg, the generational gap. Perhaps because I sometimes struggle with my own mother, that divide between generations strikes me as timeless. The details of what divides them may change with time & circumstance but the fact of the gap remains.

I also like the interaction between the siblings Bennie & Walter Lee. Actually, I guess that the personal relationships between all the different members of the family struck me as so real - squabbling & loving & frustrated & worried; it all felt like it could be a family I knew.


message 31: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Leslie wrote: "I find that the interaction between Mama & the two younger women, Bennie & Ruth, is what has really stuck with me; as you say Greg, the generational gap. Perhaps because I sometimes struggle with m..."

I completely agree Leslie - it's the reality of those personal family relationships and the timelessness of those relationships that are striking me so far too. That's what is making the play engaging so far.


message 32: by Greg (last edited Sep 16, 2017 10:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Wow, act 1, scene two was amazingly powerful toward the end - I'm so moved by the clash between Walter and Mama. I feel such a sense of sadness in Walter's description of his job, the endless opening of doors for other people ... the emptiness of it.

But then I felt chills at Mama's speech about her generation's hopes and desires, what they sacrificed and hoped for, just "not being lynched and getting to the North if we could and how to stay alive and still have a pinch of dignity," the horrors they faced. She can't really understand Walter's need for more than she could've ever hoped for.

How different Walter's life is .. better, yes, but still so limited in terms of what employment opportunities are open to him.

And then poor Ruth and her position (view spoiler). No accident the name I think. Ruth sticks to her mother in law more closely than Mama's own children.

This play is much better than I remembered!


message 33: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Finished Act 2, scene 1 - I found it very moving. It's hard not to feel for Ruth; she's in such a bad position, and even then, she really tries to make things right. My eyes got a little misty at her innocent excitement about (view spoiler).

The weird Nigerian dance too: I can imagine that being spine prickling with the right staging - there's something so primal about that moment .. both of their hopeless yearning for something simpler, for a life where they could be socially central and have real power.

To be honest, I was kind of surprised by the characters' critique of assimilation though ... given that this play was performed in 1959. I knew the 1950's were the time that the civil rights struggle gained a lot of strength with sit-ins and non-violent protests, but I thought the anti-assimilation/Black Power movements came later. It's interesting how the 50's are often thought of as a kind of haven and the 60's as a time of protest when it really isn't so simple.


message 34: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink | 4270 comments Just to say I'm enjoying all of your thoughts Greg. You're really bringing to my attention why this is such a good play. I didn't enjoy it too much on paper, but I often feel like that immediately after reading a play, especially if I haven't seen it performed. In some ways this is so simple, but at the same time it has a powerful quietness about it.


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Greg | 7041 comments Pink wrote: "Just to say I'm enjoying all of your thoughts Greg. You're really bringing to my attention why this is such a good play. I didn't enjoy it too much on paper, but I often feel like that immediately ..."

Thanks Pink! And I like what you say about it being simple on the surface with a "deceptive quietness."

Maybe if you saw it performed with the right cast, you would've enjoyed it more? There's plays I know I didn't "get" on paper - Waiting for Godot was like that for me. This one I'm luckily clicking with though.


message 36: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink | 4270 comments I've come to realise I do the same with all plays I read. I finish them thinking what was all the fuss about, but then they stick in my mind even years later. It definitely helps if I've seen a production.


message 37: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Finished Act 2, scene 2:

Oh man, I do not think it was a good plan for Mama to (view spoiler) I hope he proves me wrong - I don't recall what happens, but I am very worried!!!


message 38: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink | 4270 comments Oh I remember thinking that was a bad idea too. Just tempting trouble!


Kathleen | 121 comments I'm enjoying these comments too, and re-living the reading experience. :-) I haven't seen this performed live, but did see the fantastic movie version with Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee several times before I ever read the play, and still got even more out of reading it.

Greg, I had the same experience with Waiting for Godot. I was so disappointed.

Your thoughts on this play made me think of A Streetcar Named Desire. Has anyone read that?


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Pink | 4270 comments Kathleen wrote: "Your thoughts on this play made me think of A Streetcar Named Desire. Has anyone read that? .."

I haven't but it's high up on my list of plays to read. Which could still mean that I don't read it for years yet. That's why I like having a group play, it gives me the push to actually pick plays up.


message 41: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Kathleen wrote: "Your thoughts on this play made me think of A Streetcar Named Desire. Has anyone read that?..."

Yes, a great play Kathleen! For me, Williams plays read very well on paper.

In fact, no performance I've ever seen of The Glass Menagerie ever quite lived up to the imaginary one I constructed in my head as I read it, ha ha.


Kathleen | 121 comments Thank you both. I agree that the group play is a lovely way to read more of them, Pink. And glad to hear it, Greg--I was a little hesitant after Waiting for Godot! I should read The Glass Menagerie too. I know I read it in school, but don't have any memory of it.


message 43: by Greg (last edited Sep 17, 2017 05:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments The last act is profound. I love the metaphor of the curving lines that have too subtle a curve for people to notice it. I especially like Asagai's speeches in this act, his impassioned pleas for hope.

The struggle between despair and hope in the social world is something any minority has felt I think ... in a larger sense, probably any person on Earth has felt really.

Also the question of whether people are capable of something better (I hope so!) or whether we should all just settle for a dog-eat-dog self-made hell full of uber-competitive people devoid of compassion.

I love the ambiguousness of the ending, Mama sticking her fist in her mouth to still the "great heaving thing" rising in her. What does everyone make of this - is it excitement? fear? joy? Who knows what will happen to the Youngers where they are going, but they're going to keep their pride.

And most of all I love that tiny gesture of Mama coming back for the plant. That fragile little dream of Mama's for her own garden hasn't died yet ... she's going to take that bedraggled, ugly plant that she's somehow kept alive through all these years of hardship with her, and she's going to plant it in her own dirt ... she's going to keep on going.

How funny: when I read this as young adult, all I got out of it was the problem of white people of that era not wanting blacks to live in their neighborhoods. As an adult, I see a very real family with all of their relationships and struggles to survive & thrive in a hostile environment. These people feel so alive and real to me!

I'm pleased you chose this play Leslie because without that, I probably wouldn't have ever re-read it!


message 44: by Joan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joan | 1454 comments Greg, your insight has tripled my enjoyment of the play.


Leslie | 14633 comments Pink wrote: "Just to say I'm enjoying all of your thoughts Greg. You're really bringing to my attention why this is such a good play..."

I second this! Greg has such a great way of expressing his thoughts on books - one reason I am so glad to have him posting again ;)


message 46: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Joan wrote: "Greg, your insight has tripled my enjoyment of the play."

Thanks so much Joan - made me smile when I read this! :)

I enjoyed reading everyone else's comments too!


Leslie | 14633 comments Greg wrote: "I'm pleased you chose this play Leslie because without that, I probably wouldn't have ever re-read it! .."

Someone suggested it a while ago (I am embarrassed to say I don't remember who it was). And on the topic of choosing, I was thinking of selecting a contemporary play for the final quarter of the year. Looking at this blog post from StageMilk:

http://www.stagemilk.com/best-modern-...

I was thinking of selecting the first one listed: The Aliens. I know nothing about it except what is on that website so if anyone has a different suggestion, I am open to it.


message 48: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7041 comments Leslie wrote: "
I second this! Greg has such a great way of expressing his thoughts on books - one reason I am so glad to have him posting again ;) ..."


Thanks so much Leslie! :)


message 49: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink | 4270 comments Leslie, I'm game for reading anything, but just checked my library and they don't have a copy. So unless it's available for free online I'll have to give it a miss I'm afraid.


Leslie | 14633 comments Pink wrote: "Leslie, I'm game for reading anything, but just checked my library and they don't have a copy. So unless it's available for free online I'll have to give it a miss I'm afraid."

I want to pick something that is available to most of our members so let me look at some of the others. Last year, before my dad got sick, he & I saw a hilarious play called Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang.


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