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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company opens new season with American classic ‘A Raisin In The Sun’

Baltimore— Chesapeake Shakespeare Company launches its shortened 19th Season in February with Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Reggie Phoenix from February 4 to 27, 2022. Student Matinee performances will also be offered on February 8, 10, 16, and 17.

Though A Raisin in the Sun is not CSC’s first foray into presenting works from the past century on stage, it will be the company premiere of the play that “changed American theater forever” (The New York Times). Director Reggie Phoenix, Associate Professor of Theatre at Morgan State University, says “A play only becomes a “classic” when generations of theater goers deem it so—when over many changing eras it remains vital to the current time in which it which exists, and when its message continues to be relevant enough that people flock to it year after year. Now, more than ever, A Raisin in the Sun’s message reverberates with such withering power and timeliness, that it could have been written today. I’m thrilled to be bringing this vital piece of American theatre to the stage of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.”

Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece tells the story of the Younger family, who yearn for a better life outside the confines of their tenement on Chicago’s south-side. When a means of escape presents itself in the form of a life insurance check, the family members realize that the “American Dream” appears to mean different things to each of them. A Raisin in the Sun premiered on Broadway in 1959, and was one of, if not the, first plays to deal head-on with issues of racism and its ripple effect on gentrification, assimilation, and housing discrimination.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s own Gerrad Alex Taylor, who serves as Associate Artistic Director returns to the stage as Younger family patriarch, Walter Lee, and he recognizes how vital this work is, both for the company, and himself, as an artist:

“As classical theatres across the world continue to explore and expand the inclusivity of narratives showcased on their stages, I think that there is no better time to bring this powerfully important work to CSC audiences. In our continued effort to serve the state of Maryland, as its leading producer of classical theatre, we cannot forget the canon of classic dramatic literature from the perspectives of communities we directly serve, or we run the risk of serving no one.”

He went on to say “I am excited to step into the shoes of Walter Lee; standing in the shadows of giants that have brought this role to the forefront of our imagination in the 20th century. As one of the artistic leaders of the company, I am equally excited to honor the lives of Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Sidney Poitier, and all the trailblazers that shifted the narrative of which voices were deemed valuable in the American theatre and that canonized the sacredness of their lived experiences.”

Taylor will star alongside popular longtime CSC Company Member Tamieka Chavis, as “Mama” Lena Younger. The cast is rounded out by Zach Brewster-Geisz, Lloyd Ekpe, Dominic Gladden, Alex Jones, Dawn Thomas Reidy, Quincy Vicks, and Niyah Worthy.

Raisin also marks the return of Student Matinees to the CSC mainstage. Prior to the pandemic, over 14,000 Maryland middle and high school students attended student matinees at CSC annually. There will be four special presentations of the show for student audiences this winter (see dates below).

Please note, based on current union rules, no food or drink will be permitted inside the theatre. Proof of vaccination or a negative PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours of your performance time must be shown prior to entering the theatre. For children under 12, proof of one dose of an FDA approved vaccine 14 days before the performance date will also be accepted. Masks must be worn at all times while inside the theatre. For more information, visit www.chesapeareshakespeare.com or call the box office at 410-244-8570. 

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