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New Rep Theatre fall season opens with ‘A Raisin in the Sun’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
New Rep Theatre fall season opens with ‘A Raisin in the Sun’
"A Raisin in the Sun" cast members (from left) Jon Vellante, Joshua Olumide, Lorraine Victoria Kanyike and Damon Singletary. PHOTO: KEN YOTSUKURA

Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking drama “A Raisin in the Sun” opens New Repertory Theatre’s fall season in September. Inspired by the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, “A Raisin in the Sun” debuted on Broadway in 1959. More than 50 years later, the themes of family, home and place in the world still resonate.

“This play is humbling,” says director Lois Roach. “The material is rich and it is thick and it is timely, even though it was written in 1959.”

The play centers on a Black family living in Chicago. With the help of a life insurance check, they put a down payment on a house, a step towards a fresh start. When the primarily white neighbors try to buy the family out to keep the neighborhood from diversifying, tensions arise. The housing challenges strike a particular chord as the cost of living continues to rise in Boston.

“Everyone wants a safe place to lay their head,” says Roach. “Whether you’re trying to buy a house, which is the essence of the story behind ‘Raisin,’ or you’re just trying to survive Mass and Cass, that’s all of it.”

Valyn Lyric Turner plays Beneatha Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun.” PHOTO: COURTESY NEW REP THEATRE

At the same time, Beneatha, a young woman in the family, explores paths for her future. Two paths are represented by two different men in her life — one who has been successful by financial standards but denies his African heritage, and another who teaches Beneatha about her own African legacy.

Valyn Lyric Turner says she was particularly attracted to the role of Beneatha because of the young woman’s unapologetic attitude as she navigates her choices.

“The whole story is attractive to me as a portrait of a Black American family, because I think it does a really good job of showing the diversity within the Black experience, and not only a Black family in relation to the white power around them,” says Turner.

A Raisin in the Sun” runs at New Rep Sept. 5-Oct. 1 at The Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown. New Rep’s 2023/24 season additionally opens with a simultaneous run of “DIASPORA!,” a production that originated locally as part of the Boston Project at Speakeasy Stage. The world premiere play follows a writer researching her Boston ancestry during the Civil Rights Movement.

“I always find that when we get to tell our stories, we find we have more in common than we oftentimes expect,” says Roach. “Everyone wants a safe place to lay their head and go to sleep. Everyone wants food to eat. Everyone wants laughter and joy and love.”

A Raisin in the Sun, arts, Lorraine Hansberry, New Rep Theatre, theatre