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Bristol Riverside Theatre stages Lorraine Hansberry’s definitive masterwork, “A Raisin in the Sun”


For its third production of the 2023-24 season, Bristol Riverside Theatre presents a poignant depiction of 1950s Chicago from the experiences of one Southside family in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Multi-award-winning actress, playwright, and Philadelphia native Lisa Strum directs the show, produced by BRT’s Ken Kaissar, which runs Jan. 30 through Feb. 18 on the BRT Mainstage, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol.

With a title derived from Langston Hughes’ poem, “Harlem,” the story of the Younger family’s financial woes and what dreams may come of one unexpected opportunity has captured the world over.

The production premiered at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway in 1959 and was subsequently adapted into a Golden Globe and Cannes Film Festival award-nominated motion picture in 1961. Named the Best Play of 1959 by The New York Drama Critics’ Circle, “A Raisin in the Sun” was the first play written by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway under a Black director, Lloyd Richards.

First considered an investment risk, producers were astonished to witness its widespread critical acclaim and multiple curtain calls on its Broadway opening. Boasting a marquee ensemble cast including Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Louis Gossett Jr., and Claudia McNeil, the play was nominated for four Tony Awards in its introductory run and remains the categorical standard of its genre. The New York Times cited its impact as having “changed American Theatre forever.”

In the BRT production, Walter DeShields plays Walter Lee Younger, the role made famous by Sidney Poitier in the show’s Broadway and cinematic debuts, opposite the Younger family’s matriarch, Lena (Patricia Floyd), Walter’s son Travis (Aasim Iqbal), wife Ruth (Martine Fleurisma), and sister Beneatha (Brittany Davis).

Beneatha entertains two love interests, Joseph Asagai (Dayo Olatokun) and George Murchison (Brandon Pierce), who pull her in competing philosophical directions surrounding her cultural identity.

BRT’s production features the show’s assistant director, Tamara Anderson, as Mrs. Johnson, the Younger family’s nosy, pessimistic neighbor, contextualizing Hansberry’s stance on civil rights, a role excluded from the original Broadway play. Anderson is an accomplished singer, actor, director, and writer known for her screen roles in NBC’s “Blacklist” (Marion Stamps) and Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Deborah), among myriad production credits and new projects slated for 2024.

As the play begins, audiences are introduced to the central conflict since the recent death of the Younger patriarch: what to do with the life insurance check of $10,000, a small fortune for the times. While Walter’s impassioned pursuit of business ownership stands most prominent in conversation, Mama intends to protect the family’s long-term interests, emphasizing the immediate need for homeownership.

As the protagonists struggle with themes of betrayal, intimidation, assimilation, and housing discrimination, the challenges of racism during the mid-20th century provide the backdrop for powerful insights uncovered inside the poverty-stricken two-bedroom Southside apartment.

“I can confidently say this is one of the greatest American plays of all time. It deals with racism and what it means to be American,” said BRT Producing Director Ken Kaissar. “The character of Beneatha is dating two men, one from Africa who encourages her to embrace her African roots and an American who laughs at her for doing so. There’s something so quintessentially American about this play, and that’s why it’s still regularly produced over 60 years later.”

Eric Carter (Bobo/Walter Lee Understudy) and Peter Bisgaier (Karl Lindner) complete the award-winning cast for “A Raisin in the Sun.” The production is supported by a multi-talented design team, including Jason Simms (Scenic Design), Cameron Filepas (Lighting Design), Jahise LeBouef (Costume Design), and Michael Keck (Sound Design).

Tickets for “A Raisin in the Sun” are available online and by phone at 215-785-0100. For information, visit

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