Sunday, March 2, 2014

'A Raisin in the Sun' Exhibit Opens at NYPL

Fifty-five years ago this month, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway. Premiering on March 11, 1959, at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, it was the first play by a black woman playwright produced on the "Great White Way." 

A Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry in 1959.
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A Raisin in the Sun was also the first play in the history of Broadway to have a black director, Lloyd Richards. Its nearly all-black cast featured Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Louis Gossett Jr., Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon, Glynn Turman, and John Fielder, among others. The show was a huge success. A Raisin in the Sun ran for 530 performances, and the production earned numerous accolades, including the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play.

The original Broadway playbill from 1959.
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On the eve of the play's 55th anniversary, the New York Public Library has opened an exhibit that showcases original items from the 1959 Broadway production. The exhibit, titled "A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry's Dream on Broadway," can be seen in the McGraw Rotunda on the third floor of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Items in the New York Public Library's commemorative exhibit include:

  • The original Broadway playbill with Sidney Poitier on the cover
  • The original manuscript of A Raisin in the Sun, with production notes
  • Letters of congratulations from Langston Hughes, Tennessee Williams, Ossie Davis, and others
  • A 35-minute documentary from 1970 on Hansberry running on a loop
  • Photographs from the original cast rehearsal of the groundbreaking play

"A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry's Dream on Broadway" is on display at the New York Public Library now through March 16. Viewing hours are 10 AM to 8 PM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 AM to 6 PM on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and 1 PM to 5 PM on Sundays. If you're in New York between now and March 16, be sure to check it out.

For more information on NYPL's "A Raisin in the Sun" exhibit, go HERE and HERE.

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