Context


Harlem

by Langston Hughes

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?

Lorraine Hansberry found her inspiration to write A Raisin in the Sun from the Langston Hughes poem Harlem as well as from her own life experiences growing up in a hostile, racially charged environment. A Raisin in the Sun was produced in 1959, as not only the first African-American play to be produced on Broadway, but as the first play to be directed by an African-American Director with an African-American female playwright. This play broke many barriers, and continues to do so today as the messages of dreams, identity, class, beauty, value, and struggle continue to be universally relevant. It was first directed by Lloyd Richards at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City, featuring such talents as Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Claudia McNeil (all whom also appeared in the 1961 movie adaptation). It was then adapted into a stage musical that was performed at the 46th Street Theatre in New York in 1973. The 2008 Broadway revival was directed by Kenny Leon and featured Sean Combs (P. Diddy), Audra McDonald, Phylicia Rashad and Sanaa Lathan, who later made another film adaptation. The 2014 Broadway revival, also directed by Kenny Leon, performed once again in the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, featured Denzel Washington, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Anika Noni Rose and Sophie Okonedo. This production won 3 Tony awards: Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by an actress in a featured role (Okonedo), and Best direction of a Play (Leon).

Lorraine Hansberry died of cancer in 1965 at the young age of 34, leaving behind a few other plays, essays and unfinished manuscripts. A Raisin in the Sun is by far her most successful and most well known.

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