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Page 1: PlayGuide - Actors Theatre of · 2 A Raisin in the Sun Synopsis While the Younger family of South Side

presented by GuidePlay

Page 2: PlayGuide - Actors Theatre of · 2 A Raisin in the Sun Synopsis While the Younger family of South Side

About the A Raisin in the Sun

Play GuideThis play guide is a standards-based resource designed to enhance your theatre experience. Its goal is twofold: to nurture the teaching and learning of theatre arts and to encourage essential questions that lead to enduring understandings of the play’s meaning and relevance. Inside you will find:

• Historical/contextual information• Vocabulary and worksheets that lay the groundwork of the story and build anticipation for the performance• Oral discussion and writing prompts that encourage your students to reflect upon their impressions and to analyze and relate key ideas to their personal experiences and world around them. These can easily be adapted to fit most writing objectives.• Bridgework, which connects theatre elements with ideas for drama activities in the classroom• integrated curriculum for your lessons.

We encourage you to adapt and extend the material in any way to best fit the needs of your community of learners. Please feel free to make copies of this guide, or you may download it from our website: We hope this material, combined with our pre-show workshops, will give you the tools to make your time at Actors Theatre a valuable learning experience.

Table of ContentsPage 2: Synopsis/Character ListPage 3: A Bit About RaisinPage 4: Legendary LorrainePage 5: Harlem RenaissancePage 6: Civil Rights MovementPage 7: FeminismPage 8: ContemporariesPage 9-10: BridgeworkPage 11: Pre- and Post-Show Questions, ThemesPage 12: Further ReadingPage 13: Writing Portfolio

A Raisin in the Sun matinee and study guide address specific Kentucky Core Content:• aH-1.3.1: Students will identify the elements of drama. • aH-2.3.1: Students will analyze how time, place and ideas are reflected in drama/theatre. • aH-3.3.1: Students will explain how drama/theatre fulfills a variety of purposes.• SS-HS-2.1.1: Students will explain how belief systems, knowledge, technology, and behavior patterns define cultures and help to explain historical perspectives and events in the modern world.• SS-HS-2.3.1: Students will explain why conflict and competition may develop as cultures emerge in the modern world.• SS-HS-2.3.2: Students will explain and give examples of how com-promise and cooperation are characteristics that influence interaction in the modern world.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding our play guides, please feel free to contact Jacob Stoebel at (502) 584-1265.

The Hearst Foundation, Inc.

Study Guide compiled by emily denison, alix Johns, amy lipman, Jacob Stoebel, & Bethany Stopher.

actors Theatre education Steven Rahe, Education Director

Jacob Stoebel, Education Coordinator

Lee Look, New Voices Coordinator

Stowe Nelson, Education Intern

Julie Mercurio, Education Intern

Jeffery Mosser, Education Intern

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A Raisin in the Sun SynopsisWhile the Younger family of South Side Chicago waits for a $10,000 insurance check after the death of Mr. Younger, differences arise as to how they should spend the money. Each adult family member has something they want to spend the money on, whether it is education, a business investment or a home to call their own.

Dreams compete and each character pursues his or her vision of what life could be. They must ultimately deal with the repercussions of each other’s decisions as a family.

What will happen when the possibilities of the money cause rifts in relationships? Who offers the Younger family a chance to compromise their dignity further for their dreams, and how will they react? Where will they find their roots? In America or in Africa? In their apartment or a new home? Alone or together?

list of Characters

lena younger: Mama, as she is referred to in the play, is the widowed matriarch of the Younger family. The insurance check is written in her name but she cares little for the money, caring for her family instead. Everyone in the family respects and loves her.

Walter lee younger: Mama’s oldest child and son, Walter Lee works as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family. He often feels as if he’s fighting the world through his mother and wife, and wants desperately to be rich.

Ruth younger: Ruth is Walter Lee’s wife and is an emotional woman who loves her family and husband deeply. She is concerned with her family’s well-being and is the most excited at the possibility of a new house.

Beneatha younger: “Bennie” is Walter Lee’s younger sister and Mama’s daughter. She wants to go to medical school and has two suitors in the play, George and Asagai. She wants to find her roots, and looks for them both as a modern black woman in America and as a proud African.

Travis younger: Ruth and Walter Lee’s son, who is close with both parents and loves his grandmother.

Joseph asagai: Asagai is Beneatha’s suitor from Nigeria, who wants to bring Bennie back to Africa to practice medicine. George Murchison: Bennie’s African-American boyfriend who is incredibly rich.

Karl lindner: The white representative from the Clybourne Welcoming Committee.

Bobo: Walter Lee’s business partner. Lorraine Hansberry

Poster from the original production of A Raisin in the Sun

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A Bit About…


Scenes from the original production of A Raisin in the Sun.

A Raisin in the Sun has had a powerful impact since its first production in 1959. It was one of the first theatrical pieces to highlight the many issues and uncertainties that plagued the African American community in the 1960s and1970s and remain problematic even today. The play deals with concepts of the “American Dream”—specifically what that dream means for a black family living in South Side Chicago. Its focus on African American heritage and the urge to reconnect with African roots is a theme that became increasingly important in the years following the play’s publication.

Critics of the play were impressed with the complexity and depth of this young writer’s first play; Lorraine Hansberry was only 29 old when Raisin opened on Broadway in 1959. The play was a hit but, initially, it seemed a risky investment. Led by black director and a cast which was almost all African American, it took producer Philip Rose over a year to raise enough money to support the production. Nevertheless, the play opened to positive reviews and continued to run on Broadway for almost two years before going on tour.

A Raisin in the Sun was a new experience for the primarily white audiences of Broadway and it became one of the first productions to draw large numbers of black audience members. It was, and continues to be, a dramatic insight into the life and struggles of the African American experience.

A Raisin in the Sun Firsts and awards:

n First play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.

n First play with a black director on Broadway.

n First Broadway production to draw large numbers of black audience members.

n First African American to win New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play (1959).

in 1960 A Raisin In The Sun was nominated for four Tony awards:

n Best Play - Written by Lorraine Hansberry; produced by Philip Rose, David J. Cogan

n Best Actor in Play - Sidney Poitier

n Best Actress in a Play - Claudia McNeil

n Best Direction of a Play - Lloyd Richards

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Lorraine Hansberry hit the stage in 1959 with her breakout play A Raisin in the Sun. This legendary play captivated Broadway audiences at a tumultuous time: a new wave of feminism, mass campaigns for civil rights, and some of the most influential court cases in American history fueled the desire for social justice. Hansberry’s work brought her fame at a young age. Passionate about changing a country for which she had great hopes, Hansberry’s own struggles—as well as her early exposure to the rich and varied lives of black Americans—informed her activism and writing.

Hansberry grew up in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, and was the daughter of prominent civil rights activists Carl and Nannie Hansberry. Hansberry and her family moved to a white neighborhood when Hansberry was eight years old, where they were met with violence and hostility. Mobs surrounded the family’s house. After several attacks, the Hansberrys were almost evicted from their home by the Illinois courts. Hansberry’s father and lawyers from the NAACP fought Hansberry vs. Lee until it reached the Supreme Court, where

the eviction was overturned. This experience would surface in Hansberry’s work. Hansberry enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in 1948 to study visual art, but after seeing Sean O’Casey’s play Juno and the Paycock, Hansberry turned her focus to writing plays in order to combine the two loves of her life—social activism and artistic expression.

Hansberry left the university after two years and moved to New York in 1950 to write. She got a job at Paul Robeson’s independent radical black paper, Freedom. Hansberry wrote reviews of plays and books by African-American writers, and became Associate Editor of the newspaper in 1952. Her articles investigated the unjust legal and educational experiences of blacks in New York. In a picket line against discrimination at New York University, Hansberry met Robert Nemiroff, a literature student. They married in 1953. Hansberry worked as a waitress while continuing to write on the side. She began writing A Raisin in the Sun in 1956. After its success on Broadway, she went on to write other well-known works such as The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and Les Blancs. At just 28 years old, Hansberry’s name was on par with other major American dramatists. Hansberry died of pancreatic cancer in 1965 at age 34 during the run of her second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. Her husband and literary executor, Robert Nemiroff, compiled her writings to share with the world, producing a collection of previously unseen work called To Be Young, Gifted and Black.

Hansberry’s provocative body of work has been celebrated for its realistic portrayal of what happens to “a dream deferred” in a prejudiced society. Poet Nikki Giovanni says of Hansberry’s legacy, "If you want to tell the truth, you have to pick up your pen and take your chances. She made it possible for all of us to look a little deeper." While we mourn Hansberry and think of all the work she might have produced had her life not been cut short, Hansberry’s fearless writing gave the American theatre one of its most enduring stories in A Raisin in the Sun, one that resonates half a century after its creation.

— Amy Lipman


Hansberry focused on writing plays in order to combine the two loves of her life—social activism and artistic expression.


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Harlem: a dream deferredLangston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry uplike 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 sagslike a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

The title of Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun comes from Langston Hughes’ poem, Harlem: A Dream Deferred. In this poem, Hughes ponders the effects of a dream or goal that is put off or delayed. It is part of a collection of poems called Montage of a Dream Deferred written in 1951. This collection was written as an expression of life in Harlem where Hughes lived as an adult. The neighborhood, located in Manhattan, became the center of a movement called the Harlem Renaissance.


After Reconstruction (the period after the Civil War when the federal government worked toward resolving the relationship between the North and South) violent racism and Jim Crow laws in the South caused a migration of African Americans to the North where racial violence was still quite common. Many families and individuals sought out established black communities in the Midwest and Northeastern states. One of these well-known communities was Harlem.

There seemed to be an explosion of african american creativity in the realms of art, music and literature.

The Harlem Renaissance was a result of decades of changing attitudes within black culture. As the 19th century came to an end, African American men like W.E.B. DuBois who were born free, highly educated, and successful, began to fight the stereotypes pressed on them by prevailing racist ideas that “negroes” were ignorant, unskilled and inferior. The black community demanded equal status and recognition of their human rights. They also wanted to make it clear that they could not be grouped

or stereotyped since they did not look alike, act alike, live alike or think alike. As the African community in Harlem grew, the neighborhood became the center of these changing attitudes and feelings and an example of what the black community could be. A strong sense of racial pride brought about powerful changes that drew educated, creative and passionate people to the community. These changes soon became impossible for the white communities to ignore. With the publication of the black poet Claude McKay in a white literary journal, and the novel Cane by Jean Toomer, there seemed to be an explosion of African American art, music and literature.

Soon this flood of new art forms began to flow from the black communities all over the country; the United States could no longer ignore the vibrant artistic presence of these communities. The Harlem Renaissance officially ended with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, but in reality it still hasn’t stopped. The ideas and attitudes of the Harlem Renaissance remain relevant in our nation today.

The Harlem Renaissance

Harlem at Night, as interpreted by artist/designer Winold Reiss

A 1930s demonstration in Harlem

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Lorraine Hansberry’s hit play, A Raisin In the Sun, reflects the racial tensions of the 1950s and '60s, a time of incredible breakthroughs and setbacks in the fight for civil rights. Her play explores the lives of black Americans at a time when their standing in society was constantly changing. Hansberry also delves into ideas of African anticolonialism, new notions of family values, feminism and the promise of the American dream. The historical background of the play—the growing Civil Rights Movement—is impossible to ignore; here are some of the civil rights breakthroughs and issues of Hansberry’s time.

May 17, 1954: Supreme Court Decision Brown v. Topeka Board of Education overturned previous segregation in schools.

august 28, 1955: Emmett Till's body found in the Tallahatchie River. While visiting an uncle in Mississippi for the summer, the Chicago teenager was dragged from his house in the middle of the night, murdered and disposed of by a group of men who claimed he had spoken inappropriately to a white woman at a market. The incident sparked national rioting and campaigns for civil rights.

december 1, 1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. n Montgomery Bus Boycott begins in Montgomery, Alabama. African Americans stop using public transportation until it is guaranteed that they can ride the bus without being asked to give up a seat to a white customer or forced to sit in the back. The boycott lasts until December 21, 1956 when the Supreme Court’s declares the segregation of buses unconstitutional.

1957: The NAACP of Chicago reports “De Facto Segregation in Chicago Public Schools.” august 29, 1957: Civil Rights Act of 1957 is passed to ensure that all African Americans have the right to vote.

September 23, 1957: Nine African American students integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.


March 11, 1959: A Raisin in the Sun premieres. It is the first dramatic show on Broadway written by a black woman with a black director featuring the lives of black Americans.

1960: Civil Rights Act of 1960 passed in order to establish federal investigation of voter registration polls with penalties for anyone who attempts to obstruct anyone’s right to vote. n Four young men hold a sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina after being refused service. This ignites youthful civil rights activists throughout the South.n The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is formed in Atlanta with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, as leader, and SCLC later helps to form SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

1962: Rev. Willie Barrow and Rev. Jesse Jackson organize Operation Breadbasket in order to improve economic conditions in the black community.

1963: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963, bringing 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. n Segregationists plant bombs that kill four girls at Sunday School in Birmingham, Alabama.

1964: On July 2nd, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation in public places, schools and places of employment. Title VII of the act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin. In an effort to enfranchise the African American community, a campaign called “Freedom Summer” works to register southern African Americans to vote.

1965: SCLC leader Dorothy Tillman comes to Chicago to fight for open housing. She will later become a prominent Chicago political figure.n February 21, 1965 Malcolm X is assassinated in Harlem.

March 7, 1965: The first march from Selma to Montgomery is met by police action. 17 marchers were hospitalized.

august 10, 1965: Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, eliminating literacy tests and poll taxes that were used to restrict black voting.n The Coordinating Council of Community Organization stages almost daily marches against segregationist school policies.

September, 1965: CCCO joins forces with Dr. Martin Luther KingJr's Southern Christian Leadership Conference to launch the Chicago Freedom Movement, which sought to end slums and extend equal opportunities to all Chicagoans. The high point of the Chicago Freedom Movement is a two-month campaign in the summer of 1966 to end housing discrimination in metropolitan Chicago. — Amy Lipman

The Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King Jr.

Arkansas National Guard blocks entry of black students at Central High School.

Akansas Democrat-Gazette

Rosa Parks

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Feminism in the 1950s and 60s

Formed in 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) has

lobbied and demonstrated for social progress on gender issues.

Civil Rights activists,Cario, Illinios 1962

Artwork from the Harlem Renaissance depicted women as strong, capable


Beneatha Younger in A Raisin in the Sun has been cited as the voice of many young women in the 1950s and '60s movements toward gender equality. Questions such as beauty ideals among women, women’s sexuality, and gender equality in the workplace incited protest and artistic movements, just like the Civil Rights Movement. When A Raisin in the Sun was written, women were working to pave the way towards complete equality. Here is a brief timeline of the women’s movement around the time of A Raisin in the Sun.

1957: The number of women and men voting approaches an equal count for the first time.

1960: The Food and Drug Administration approves birth control pills, enabling women to have increased agency over their bodies.

n Women earn only 60 cents for every dollar earned by men, and women of color earn only 42 cents.

1963: The Equal Pay Act, proposed twenty years earlier, establishes equal pay for men and women performing the same job duties. It does not cover domestics, agricultural workers, executives, administrators or professionals.

n Betty Friedan's bestseller, The Feminine Mystique, describes the "problem that has no name." By 1970, five million copies are sold, feeding the modern feminist movement.

1964: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans employment discrimination by private employers, employment agencies and unions based on race and sex. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is established to investigate complaints and enforce penalties. Fifty thousand complaints of gender discrimination are logged in its first five years.

1966: Twenty-eight women found the National Organization for Women to function as a civil rights organization for women.


The Waves of Feminism

Each era of feminism is remembered for its own unique causes, leaders and means of expression. Thus far, there are three major historical time periods or waves of the advancement of women’s rights. Here is an overview of the issues that each wave has taken on.

1st wave

19th and early 20th century: Universal Votes for women: Suffrage, equal property rights.

2nd wave

Late 1950s-1980s: “The personal is political”: Sexual politics, sexual liberation, identity politics and exploration of the source of oppression of majority and minority women.

3rd wave

1990s-present day: Cultural roots of women’s roles, the influences of media and culture on the development of young women, advocacy for women's health awareness, feminist sub-groups, campaigns for gay and lesbian rights, gender studies and queer studies scholarship.

— Amy Lipman

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Tennessee Williams was writing his plays at the same time as Hansberry. Both writers used realism and utilized specific stories to expose universal themes. Williams received many awards for his powerful writing and is considered one of the major playwrights in American theatre.His plays include: The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Night of the Iguana, The Rose Tattoo.

William inge (1913-1973): Known as the “Playwright of the Midwest”, Inge’s award-winning plays depicted small-town life in the Midwest.His plays include: Picnic, Bus Stop, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.

arthur Miller (1915-2005): Miller is one of the most well-known American dramatists. His most famous play, Death of a Salesman, was the first to win all three major awards: a Tony Award for Best Play, the New York City Drama Circle Critics Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.His plays include: The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, All My Sons, Death of a Salesman.

eugene O’Neill (1888-1953): Though he was writing slightly before Hansberry, O’Neill’s work was still being produced while Hansberry was writing. O’Neill’s voice remains important in American drama as he was one of the first playwrights to incorporate realism.His plays include: Anna Christie, Desire Under the Elms, Strange Interlude, Mourning Becomes Electra, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night.

lillian Hellman (1905-1984): Hellman’s career began in the 1930s with one of her most famous plays The Children’s Hour, and continued into the 1970s. She was known for writing for children’s theatre. Her plays include: The Children's Hour, The Little Foxes, Toys in the Attic.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983): Born Thomas Lanier Williams III,


edward albee (1928-): Drawing inspiration from Europe’s Theatre of the Absurd, Albee’s writing was groundbreaking in American Theatre. While other playwrights of the time, including Hansberry, were writing in the realm of realism, Albee used non-realistic techniques to examine the social condition.His plays include: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, The Sandbox, The American Dream.

august Wilson (1945-2005): Though he began writing after Hansberry’s death, Wilson, an African American writer, also wrote extensively about the African American experience. He is known for his cycle of ten plays called The Pittsburgh Cycle each of which is set in a different decade, depicting African American life throughout the 20th century.His plays include: Fences, The Piano Lesson, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

Voices in Contemporary American Theatrelorraine Hansberry wrote from 1950 until her death in 1965. during her career many well-known and influential playwrights were also working and writing. These playwrights, along with Hansberry, are responsible for changing the nature of american theatre and influencing the larger culture.

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aT yOuR deSK activities

COllaGe: Use pictures from magazines or some of your own artwork to create a collage of the themes, or ideas, of the play. Share your work with your classmates. Were there images that everyone included in their collage, in one form or another? Was there anything you depicted that others in your class did not?

dRaW a POSTeR:After looking at our poster for the play, draw your own poster for a production of A Raisin in the Sun. How is it different? Why is it different? What would catch someone’s eye and encourage him or her to come see the show?

CReaTe a SeT deSiGN:Space and scenery are vital elements in A Raisin in the Sun. Think about all of the elements in the Younger’s apartment that play a role in the telling of the story. Examples: sunlight through the windows (or lack thereof), Mama’s plant, the size of the apartment, etc. Assume the role of Scenic Designer for A Raisin in the Sun. Make a “bird’s eye view drawing” (known in theatre as a ground plan) of the Younger apartment. Be sure to note all major features such as furniture, doors, windows and any special objects. How is this drawing supported by the text of the play? How does your vision of the Younger apartment help to reveal the play?

WHaT’S iN a liNe?Choose a line from the play that you think represents what the play as a whole is trying to achieve. Why do you think this line is a good measure of the play’s intentions? What theme does it illustrate? Who delivered it, and when?

THe Way THiNGS WeRe aRe:The author of this play, Lorraine Hansberry, indicates that it takes place “sometime between World War II and the present.” A Raisin in the Sun was originally produced in 1959.

When the play is produced today, the direction remains the same, and “the present” can be interpreted as late as the current year. First, choose a short scene and identify the situation. It may be helpful to identify what each character wants from the other when examining their dialogue. Now try re-writing the scene, or contemporizing it, to be set in the present. What problems do you run into? Have the issues that Hansberry tackles changed in the past 50 years? What has changed? Do you think social prejudices have evolved, devolved, or stayed the same?

ON yOuR FeeT activities

WHaT MiGHT HaVe HaPPeNed:Working with a partner, create a short, two-person scene that doesn’t actually happen in the show. It can be between any two characters. Try writing a scene between Mama and Mr. Lindner, or Ruth and Willy, or Walter and Asagai. What do the characters have to say to each other? How do they say it? When would the conversation have taken place, within the framework of the play? Perform your scene for your classmates.

TaBleauX BlOWS:Tableaux are frozen pictures. When an audience looks at a tableau, they should be able to understand what is going on in the story or scene. And, as you know, this play of the Younger family is full of blows to their strength, pride and resilience. As a class, brainstorm several moments in the play where some of these hits to the family occur. One example could be when Mr. Lindner introduces the contract to Walter, Ruth and Beneatha. Working in small groups, create a tableau for the rest of your class to observe. Hold your static pose while your classmates determine which scene you are illustrating.

CHaRaCTeR STORieS:Three to five students sit in chairs facing the rest of the class. Each student picks

one character from A Raisin in the Sun. One student begins by improvising a story as their selected character using one of the topics below. Either the teacher or the performers may choose topics, but all performers must use the same topic. The student telling his or her story must continue until another student jumps in. It is the job of each student on stage to support the ensemble by jumping in before the stories run on too long. Repeat for several minutes so each student has several turns to develop his or her story in full.Ideas for Story Topics:• Tell us about your earliest memory.• Tell us about a time you felt very angry with someone.• Tell us about a time when something was taken from you unjustly.• Tell us about your happiest memory.• Tell us about a day in your life ten years from now.

FuTuRe aNTHROPOlOGiSTS:The year is 2250 and you’re at the most respected anthropological conference in Europe, as a special guest speaker. An anthropologist is someone who studies people. The conference has hired you with three of your esteemed colleagues to deliver a presentation on the Harlem Renaissance, something that in 2250, is hard for them to comprehend fully. In your group, have each person investigate one of the following topics: art, music, literature, and theatre. As a group, prepare a presentation to give to the “conference” explaining each of these aspects and how they contributed to the Harlem Renaissance movement.

BridgeworkBuilding Connections Between Stage and Classroom

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BridgeworklaNGuaGe aRTS:Explore the relationship between a character in the play and an object you associate with them. It can be Mama and her plant, something that is seen on stage, or perhaps Travis with quarters he earns from carrying groceries. Fill in the following about the object to help you understand it:

1) State the object’s name.2) Give a literal description of it.3) Give a figurative description of it.4) Decide on one adjective for it.5) Give another adjective.6) Why does your character need his or her object?7) Describe your object, using one adjective and one noun. Here’s an example to get you started: Mama’s Plant1) Plant. 2) It’s old and looks scraggly. 3) It seems like Mama, as if it has been through a lot. 4) Resilient. 5) Stout. 6) It gives her something to take care of and always survives. 7) This is a hardy perennial.

WRiTiNG:A Raisin in the Sun is named after a line in a Langston Hughes poem. What do you think poetry and theatre have in common? Choose a character from the play with their corresponding object. Write a poem about the ideas of your character and of the play, and let the physical aspect of your character (behavior, characteristics, etc.) and their object help you create metaphors in your poem.

You have lots of freedom to create your poem! Here’s an example based on the Language Arts activity above:Mama’s PlantBy the window, Mama keeps a piece of her heart.It will live as long as she does, if she does her part.Every year it grows a little more.It’s a healthy plant, though it looks like a bore!Sometimes it withers but it won’t ever die.It can’t perform miracles but it


makes Mama’s heart fly.As life goes on so will this perennial green.It’s a testament to enduring, no matter how hard life may seem.

SOCial STudieS:In 1959, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been the President of the Montgomery Improvement Association for four years, bus segregation had been illegal for three years, and the first Civil Rights Act had been passed the year before. What else was going on? With your classmates, create a timeline that shows what was happening in literature, art, music, foreign affairs, and the space program during the ten years before and after 1959.

GeOGRaPHy:Consider the town of Matteson, Illinois, a small village south of Chicago. The population is almost 13,000, and the black population rose from 12% in 1980 to almost 60% today. Median income has increased, crime has not increased, school scores haven’t changed, and home prices continue to rise. Still, many white families are moving out. Why? Research what you can about this area (documentaries, such as CBS’s 48 Hours, have investigated this and interviewed residents). If you can’t find out any information, guess why you think this might be the case. Do you think it is the norm, or an isolated situation? How does it make you feel? What if it were reversed, and the African American population were moving away? Would you feel the same? Why?

MaTH:$10,000 in 1959 (the year Hansberry wrote A Raisin in the Sun) was worth about $70,900 in today’s money. What would you do with $70,000? Would you save it? Invest in a new business? Give it to a charitable cause? Make a detailed plan down to the last cent of how this money would be spent. Research exact costs of items you intend to buy or invest in. What would you expect to gain from spending your money

in this way?Now get together in groups of five. Imagine you are a family. This time you must decide together how to spend the money. You must spend every cent, and everyone must agree on each investment. As you negotiate, support your argument by describing how your idea of how to spend the money would have a positive outcome for your family and/or community.

MuSiC:What can you find out about the style of music popular in the late 50s and 60s? Create a “family tree” of music with your classmates or independently. Some of the main branches of the tree could be “soul,” “blues,” or “jazz.” Think about artists that are popular today, like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, or Chris Brown. Trace the roots of their work, and try to determine to whom they are connected on the tree. Aretha Franklin? Jimi Hendrix? Stevie Wonder?

GReeN FaCTOR!In the 1960s the country and the world were becoming much more environmentally aware. Pick a topic from the following list: wildlife and animal welfare, nuclear waste, clean water, air pollution, healthy farming, fog danger and smog, and alternative energy sources. Research what you can about advancements made in this field any time from when A Raisin in the Sun was written to today. What Presidents, if any, have made contributions? Try making a poster with three different sections, and illustrate how people took care of the environment in the 1960s, how they are taking care of it today, and what can be done for tomorrow. A great environmental history timeline can be found online at:

BridgeworkBuilding Connections Between Stage and Classroom

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If your family was to be paid $10,000, what would you use it for? Remember, the entire family has to agree to spend it together. What would your family do?

Based on the title of this play, A Raisin in the Sun, and the poster for our production that you’ve seen, what do you think this play is going to be about? What mood does the image suggest – a comedy? A drama? Why?

Think about the neighborhood you live in, or the school you attend. Do you feel comfortable and safe there? Are people treated fairly and with consideration? What makes a healthy community? What can you do to help make this happen? Who else is responsible?


Who do you think grew the most from the beginning of the play to the end? Why have you chosen that character, and how have they changed?

Can you think of other stories you’ve read or movies you’ve seen that are about a family and the way they work together? What makes this family strong? How do they solve their problems compared to how other families – including your own – might solve theirs?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked a lot about two things that would ensure a free and equal society: desegregation and integration. What does each word mean? How are desegregation and integration different? Which term do you think is the central desire of the Younger family?

Before the show


Pre-Show Discussion Questions

Post-Show Discussion Questions

Page 13: PlayGuide - Actors Theatre of · 2 A Raisin in the Sun Synopsis While the Younger family of South Side

Pre-Show Discussion Questions

Hansberry’s Drama by Steven R. Carter

Lorraine Hansberry by Anne Cheney

Lorraine Hansberry: A Research and Production Sourcebook by Richard M. Leeson

Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance by Laban Carrick Hill

The Harlem Renaissance by Harold Bloom

Theater; A Landmark Lesson in Being Black from The New York Times, March 7, 1999 by Michael Anderson

To Be Young, Gifted and Black Adapted by Robert Nemiroff

The Longman Anthology of Drama and Theater: A Global Perspective Revised 1st Edition by Michael

Greenwald, Roger Schultz, and Roberto D. Pomo

History of the Theatre 9th Edition Oscar Brockett and Franklin Hildy


Further ReadingOn lorraine Hansberry

On the Harlem Renaissance

On african american Theatre

"The Chicago Freedom Movement: Summer 1966"source:

"Abbreviated Civil Rights Timeline"source:

"Department of housing and Urban Development""History of Fair Housing"source:

"A Women’s Liberation Timeline"source:

"History Makers” “Dorothy Tillman Biography"source:


On the Web

Page 14: PlayGuide - Actors Theatre of · 2 A Raisin in the Sun Synopsis While the Younger family of South Side








N 1. Personal Writing

2. Transactive Writing

3. literary Writing

A Raisin in the Sun shows the Younger family during a brief two weeks in their life but looks at only a few of these days. Each day is different—some are eventful, some boring, some are positive and some are extremely challenging. Think of a day when many things, good or bad, happened in your family. Write about what happened. What sorts of things occurred, and how did the events of that day affect you and your family? Can you think of particular events that somehow made a difference to every family member?

After seeing A Raisin in the Sun, write a theatrical critique of the production. Pretend you are writing for a local newspaper. Describe three elements that stood out to you (maybe an actor’s performance, the set, the costumes, etc.). Why should or shouldn’t someone go see this production?

Brainstorm a list of famous African Americans with your classmates and teacher. Start with Lorraine Hansberry, the author of A Raisin in the Sun. Who were her contemporaries, or the people writing at the same time she was? What other important voices were there in theatre, poetry, or art? What about politics or music? Choose one and write a journal page as if you were that person. Do research on your subject (their job, family, school, etc.) and base your entry on the facts of their life. Include some personal details and feelings about events in your journal entry, and make sure we know when in this person’s life this journal entry was written.

Need more help?Check out our young Critics Workshops! Have an Actors Theatre teaching artist visit your class-room to give your students the inside scoop on how to write a theatrical critique.

Students who have written a critique on an actors Theatre production may submit their work to be posted on our website!! To submit online, please send all critiques as email attachments to [email protected] with the subject heading ‘Young Critics Contest.’ Please be sure to include your name, school, teacher, grade, and contact information.

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