This spring CENTERSTAGE presents two landmark plays, each a response to the legacy of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun: the Baltimore Premiere of the award-winning Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, and the World Premiere of CENTERSTAGE Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah's Beneatha's Place. 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.
Kwei-Armah first conceived Beneatha's Place and The Raisin Cycle project after seeing Bruce Norris' play 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. Beneatha's Place considers the legacy of A Raisin in the Sun through the story of Beneatha Younger-the intellectual and restless young woman who, at the end of Raisin, is contemplating a move to Nigeria with her suitor, Jospeh Asagai.
"Inspiring conversation among our audiences has been the aim of my first season at CENTERSTAGE," says Kwame Kwei-Armah. "Having the opportunity to develop Beneatha's Place to run in tandem with the brilliant Clybourne Park will be the ultimate realization of that goal. If audiences walk away from seeing these two plays, engaging with each other on the big questions, that will be a success."
Beginning April 10, the theater will first present Clybourne Park, the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play that picks up where A Raisin in the Sun leaves off, in what The New York Times calls a "darkly humorous...dissection of race, gentrification and real estate." Kwei-Armah's Beneatha's Place, which follows the life's journey of Beneatha Younger from Raisin begins on May 8. On May 18 the two productions will begin playing in rotating repertory, and continue alternating through June 16. Weekend performances will allow audiences to see the plays on the same day.
"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."
Derrick Sanders (Joe Turner's Come and Gone) returns to CENTERSTAGE to helm The Raisin Cycle. The Chicago-based director was the founding Artistic Director of Congo Square Theatre, where he directed Kwei-Armah's Elmina's Kitchen, as well as several award-winning productions of the works of August Wilson.
Among those in the cast making their CENTERSTAGE debuts are several familiar faces to the Baltimore/DC theater scene: Jessica Frances Dukes, a company member at Woolly Mammoth; Everyman Theatre resident company member, Beth Hylton; Kim Bey, who serves as the Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at Howard University and has worked regionally and nationally as an actor and a dialect coach; and DC-based Jenna Sokolowski who has frequently appeared at Woolly Mammoth, Everyman, Signature, Shakespeare Theatre, and Studio Theatre. A full cast list and bios are included at the end of this release.
Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris begins previews April 10, and celebrates its Opening Night on Wednesday, April 17. Beneatha's Place by Kwame Kwei-Armah, begins previews May 8, and celebrates Opening Night, Wednesday, May 15. Tickets can be purchased at 410.332.0033 or online at www.centerstage.org.