Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin In The Sun & The Ways Of White Folk's.

I hope I can do this right. It's my intentions to talk about Barn Theatre and Lorraines Hansberry's play - A Raisin In The Sun. But see, my prior post was titled "That Ain't Right". I started out with a little Michael Jackson and flowed into the meat of my post. Well, I thought I flowed, but I must have skipped around. In the comment section, one of my blogging friends **coughMissButterflycough** hit me with ...."What ain't right is how you start on one subject and get me all wrapped up into the post and then go left field"

I thought I was doing a whimsical steam of conscience thang, that's basically what I do. By opening with Michael Jackson, she must have thought I was going to post a video of me doing the moonwalk - in my underwear. Now don't get me wrong, my blogging friend and I are real cool and thus, I am going to try real hard to stay on line, just for her - gonna try.

Check this out. Last week I went to see a play. The play was Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin In The Sun. Most People know about Ms. Hansberry's play and they miss her. But here's the deal. The play was at an old established barn theater. Yep, white folks. This playcrafters barn has been around for 81 years and they've never put on a production like this. Well, some previous plays were the Mouse Trap by Agatha Christie, See How They Run by Phillip King, and Papa's Angels by Collin Wilcox Paxton. You get the picture. I saw "Raisin" on two separate nights and I noticed a distinct difference between the crowds reactions.

In case someone doesn't know it, "A Raisin In The Sun" is a black play. Some may remember the role of Walter being played by Sydney Poitier. Others may remember Danny Glover playing the same part. There's another clown that thought he was doing the damn thang - but he wasn't, so I am not even going to mention his name.

While watching the play I glanced at the old white people. Their faces said it all, my suspicions were true. It quickly became apparent to me that many had never seen the play and didn't know anything about it. As I said, I went on two different nights. The first night was a benefit performance for Healing Waters Empowerment Project: Breaking The Cycle of Domestic Violence. The crowd was evenly mixed - whites and blacks. I accompanied a group of 50 upward bound students - mostly black. The last night was filled with season ticket holders - old white folk.

I am an arm chair critic that doesn't really enjoy amateur productions but these actors killed this play. I had seen the lead performer do her thang in a production of "Doubt". I knew she could act but she was riveting in the role of Momma. The characters, Walter and Momma have very dynamic scenes. Race matters are a big part of the play. Some of the lines hit white folks right in the gut.

In one scene Walter's sister is reminiscing about white people and says ..." that's how the cracker crumbles". You should have seen the looks on those white folks face. That line is followed by...."that's a joke". It may have been a joke but them white folks didn't think that mess was funny - not one bit. In another scene the family is talking about the fears of white people upon hearing that a black family may be moving into their neighborhood. One character said they were afraid of losing property value and another family member said, "no, dey afraid we might marry one of them". The black audience fell out laughing. The white audience looked as if they had just heard the O. J Simpson verdict.

I realized that most whites have not been around us in all our flavor. I got the feeling they thought every closed eye was sleep. They didn't like hearing lines that showed them in all their glory - not coming from the mouth of a black person - standing 10 feet away. They seemed surprised to hear that we sometimes "play them" when they are thinking they are "playing us". Walter has a scene in which he says he is going to act just the way they expect him to in order to get that money. Money they were going to give the family so they would not move into the neighborhood. Walter said he was going to do the best Uncle Tom they've ever seen. He said Nigger several times and did a great Chicken George.

Momma was the anchor of the play and always stood for right and moral decency. The crowd loved Momma - even the white folks. She was frequently heard saying how black folks should just be grateful and forget about money and moving to fast. She said her family has always been simple folks. But towards the end of the play, Momma showed them what black mothers are capable of doing if they're bruised. The white "welcoming committee" had sent a buy-out check to the family. Toward the end of the tense and dramatic scene, Walter turned down the money. Momma had put the decision in his hands. The pitchman for the committee made one last plea to Momma. Now, mind you, Momma has been running this family. Her daughter even labeled her a tyrant. But in this scene she turned her head away from that white man, as if he stunk and said, "you know I can't do nothing with those kids" . The man looked back at Walter who was now standing by his son. The son had a look of pride as Walter opened the door as if telling the man it's time for him to leave. Remember, many of the white people and black people, had never seen the play. Lawd have mercy, I looked at them white folks and you would have thought momma called him a nigger. Some of the blacks started clapping. I heard one woman say, "I know that's right".

After the play, the actors formed a greeting line. They hurried out a back door of the stage to meet the audience by the exits. Let me tell you, some of the white folks were really cool. They loved the play, many were crying. Yet others couldn't stare at the ceiling long enough as they tried to sneak by the actors. Maybe somebody should have told them who was coming to dinner and that it wasn't Sydney Poitier and Spencer Tracy.

It was a great night. I saw a great play and learned a little something about the ways of white folks. Langston Hughes wrote a book about that. Yep, The Ways of White Folks. It's a great read. The book is sitting on my shelf.


♫Hershey's Kiss♫ said...

Hello fellow blogger. It's been a while. Awesome blog. It struck me as ironic that the play was performed at said playhouse. I'm glad that white as well as blacks were able to see it. I can't believe that some people get to see how they stereotypically are. That plaly broke barriers then and is still doing so now. I remember Mr. Poitier and Mr. Glover playing Walter Lee Younger and Ms. Ruby Dee as Ruth. I loved seeing it live with Peabo Bryson. It is a remarkable play. God Rest Mrs. Hansberry. I remember my Upward Bound days.

Strongblkwmn said...

Another good one. I noticed some of the same reactions when I saw the play on Broadway. I got a kick out of it.

A Free Spirit Butterfly said...

This was great and flowed so perfectly (smile and hugs) I wish I was there, reading and has to be a whole lot different from what you actually experienced. Be it a play or real life, "it is what it is" Some of "them" just won't change. They apparently don't beleive in the Barack's bumper stick - Together, Yes we can!

Thanks for the shout out on the book, I'm going to have to get that one and add it to my library!

Love and hugs and all that other mushy stuff!
Free Spirit Butterfly!

CareyCarey said...

Hello Hershey, it has been a long time. You where one of my first followers. Where you been boy?

I noticed you didn't say that other guy who played that role? Upward bound days, ya gotta love'em.

@ Strongblkwmn ...I've been checking in on you - read all your posts. I am still waiting for the personalized copy of your first book.Who played the leads when you saw it on broadway? Hershey mentioned Peabo - don't know if I can see him in that part.

@ Miss Butterfly ...well well well, so this one got your approval *smile*. Yep, seeing it in person takes on a whole new flavor. One night I went a S.O., she's not one who likes a lot of dialog. But she didn't fall asleep on this one. The only problem we faced was her mouth. I had to remind her that we were not sitting on the couch in her living room. Is it a black woman's thang or what? Her whispers wasn't a whisper, they were loud.

You gotta get the book "The Ways Of White Folks" it's a gem but don't take it to work. Oh no, I don't know anything about your co-workers but my daughter told me to never make a lier lie. Well, don't give anyone a chance to throw your book down the toilet. It happened to me one time. My fresh new copy of "I know Why A caged Bird Sings" ...grew feet and jumped in the stool.

Did you save me a piece of cake? That's right, police don't eat cake - just donuts as they make their rounds :-).

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic post. I draw parralels with a post I wrote a few months ago about seeing a production of "To Kill A mockingbird" with an all white audience in Sydney, here in Australia...I guess it's the world over.

Maxine said...

Last comment was from me, of course!

LoudPen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LoudPen said...

Hey Carey, this post was well written and flowed extremely well. I have not seen the play, but, I have read it. I just had a conversation recently with a white male friend of mine whose attending Julliard and he was telling me how blind he was to racism until he saw Top Dog/Underdog by Suzan Lori-Parks.

That play is nothing like A Raisin in the Sun, as far as plot line, but, definitely would scare whites who like to stay in their comfort zone and would anger liberal whites. The people that left the theater w/o speaking to the actors were comfort zone whiteys and the others that stayed were liberal.

But, I guess it is what it is. Also, I'm planning a conference for bloggers of color in NYC 2010, would that be something you'd be interested in attending?

A Free Spirit Butterfly said...

Just stopping by to say HEY! You're missed. Where are you?

Enjoy this day the Lord has made!
Happy Sunday!

Love and hugs
Free Spirit!