This spring, CENTERSTAGE will present the World Premiere production of Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah's Beneatha's Place. The production, slated to begin previews May 8, will play in rotating repertory with Bruce Norris' acclaimed Clybourne Park.
Kwei-Armah first conceived Beneatha's Place after seeing Clybourne Park. Struck by the potent frankness with which the play takes on race and class through the legacy of A Raisin in the Sun, and bursting with ideas about the outlook of Clybourne, Kwei-Armah set out to write a response in the form of his own take on Hansberry's masterpiece.
"As a playwright of color, even in Britain, the legacy of Lorraine Hansberry and A Raisin in the Sun looms large for me. I may have seen the play more often than any other," says Kwei-Armah. "So the notion of beginning my time in America, and my tenure at the helm of CENTERSTAGE, by writing my own encounter with her seminal saga is both fitting, and-frankly-terrifying."
Inspired by Norris' use of the character Karl from A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha's Place picks up the story of Beneatha Younger from Raisin and follows her life's journey beyond that iconic Chicago living room. From Nigeria to California and 1959 to today, Beneatha's Place explores the power of identity as one woman confronts the fundamental questions of community and legacy.
"It's only once in a long while that a play like Clybourne Park comes along, and even rarer that an artist of Kwame's caliber has the desire and the courage to truly engage with such a play," said Stephen Richard, CENTERSTAGE's Managing Director. "Presenting these two responses to A Raisin in the Sun is perfectly indicative of the sort of bold and engaged theater CENTERSTAGE has committed itself to producing, and reflective of Kwame's ongoing commitment to the development and production of new plays."
The two plays will be produced in rotating repertory as The Raisin Cycle, using a single company of actors and a shared design team, under the direction of Derrick Sanders. Beginning April 10, the theater will first present Clybourne Park. Beneatha's Place will begin on May 8, and on May 18, the two plays will begin playing in rotating repertory, running through June 16. Details and tickets can be found at www.centerstager.org, or by calling 410.332.0033.
The Raisin Cycle is supported by The William L. and Victorine Q. Adams Foundation and The Annie E. Casey Foundation, as well as by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award.
New play development at CENTERSTAGE is made possible in part by The Sylvia and Eddie Brown Family Foundation, and the Nathan and SuzAnne Cohen Foundation Fund for Commissioning and Developing New Plays.
Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, an award-winning British playwright, director, actor, and broadcaster, is in his second season as Artistic Director of CENTERSTAGE Theater in Baltimore, Maryland. At CENTERSTAGE he has directed The Mountaintop; An Enemy of the People; The Whipping Man (one of City Paper's Top Ten Productions of 2012), for which he was named Best Director; and Naomi Wallace's Things of Dry Hours. Among his works as playwright are Elmina's Kitchen and Let There Be Love-which had their American debuts at CENTERSTAGE-as well as A Bitter Herb, Statement of Regret, and Seize the Day. His latest play, Beneatha's Place, will debut in 2013 as part of The Raisin Cycle. Kwame has served on the boards of The National Theatre and The Tricycle Theatre, both in London. He served as Artistic Director for the World Arts Festival in Senegal, a month-long World Festival of Black Arts and Culture, which featured more than two thousand artists from 52 countries participating in 16 different arts disciplines. He was named the Chancellor of the University of the Arts London, and in 2012 was named an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.