Ruskin Group Theatre Opens A RAISIN IN THE SUN Featuring Starletta DuPois – Begins July 22nd in Los Angeles
A new production of Lorraine Hansberry‘s A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Tony Award nominated Lita Gaithers Owens and featuring another Tony Award nominee, Starletta DuPois, will run this summer in Los Angeles beginning July 22nd. Ms. Dupois, known for her role as Ruth in the acclaimed American Playhouse film version, will play Lena “Mama” Younger in the Ruskin production.
Winning the Best Play Award from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, this play made history when it opened in 1959. Its title comes from a Langston Hughes poem entitled “Harlem,” also known as “A Dream Deferred.” The setting is the Younger household in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, and involves the family members’ struggle to achieve their individual dreams and potential despite challenges of a system that seems built to thwart them.
Lorraine Hansberry (Playwright) was the first black playwright to have her work produced on Broadway and the youngest American to win the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.
“Lorraine Hansberry has given the world a priceless jewel in the writing of this timeless play,” said Ms. Owens. “From the moment it premiered it offered insight on the plight of African Americans in urban cities, and it continues to speak to the racial issues that are facing our country today. The ‘American Dream,’ for some in this nation, comes after enormous perseverance and tenacity. But for many, it simply doesn’t come at all. So, what can be discovered by taking a look from the view of those who get weary while waiting on the manifestation of their dream? Perhaps, by experiencing this play, it takes us on a journey of personal discovery and enlightenment which leads us to a path of a clearer understanding of the importance of social justice and equality through the power of love for one another.”
Lita Gaithers Owens (Director) is a Tony Award-nominated playwright and co-author of the Broadway musical, It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, which opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center, and was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Musical of 1999. She penned the song, “Please Don’t Stop Him” for the musical, which was in honor of the female blues pioneer, Memphis Minnie. Ms. Owens trained at the Los Angeles Music Center’s American Center for Musical Theatre under its Artistic Director, Paul G. Gleason. She also studied with jazz musician Phil Moore at his jazz vocalist conservatory in West Hollywood. Ms. Owens has performed in featured and leading roles at the Mark Taper Forum, Pasadena Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, Denver Center Theatre, and The Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., to name a few. She was co-founder/director of the multi-racial, “Friendship Choir” that performed with Celine Dion, Dianne Reeves, Luther Vandross, Gloria Estefan, Michael Bolton, Nelson Mandela, and for former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy. At the personal request of Bill Cosby, the choir also had the privilege of appearing in the “Story Teller” episode of “The Cosby Show” with Mavis Staples. Most recently, she contributed to the book Soul Sisters by Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, which consists of uplifting personal stories and prayers designed to encourage the reader during challenging life experiences.
“A true gift at this point in my career is having experienced the life of this play through three extraordinary women characters that the playwright created. “I am always amazed how every time I read the script I glean something else. The challenge in this particular role is that Mama’s character is written in Patois and I want to stay true to the language that Lorraine wrote.” – Starletta DuPois; Lena “Mama” Younger.
Starletta DuPois (Lena “Mama” Younger) appeared in the premiere of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, directed by Lloyd Richards, in which she created the role of Bernice, and a half-dozen different productions of A Raisin in the Sun that have allowed her to play all three major female roles in Ms. Hansberry’s play. Her most enduring performance was as Ruth, in the 1989 American Playhouse film version based on the Roundabout Theatre Company staging, and earned her the NAACP Image Award. The cast included Danny Glover, Esther Rolle, and Kim Yancey. Additional theatre credits include award-winning performances in St. Louis Black Rep’s Intimate Apparel, King Hedley II and Before it Hits Home, as well as productions of Richard Wesley’s The Mighty Gents, for which she received a Tony nomination, and Miss Evers’ Boys, which earned an NAACP Image Award nomination. Ms.DuPois received the Eternity Award from the L.A. Women’s Theatre Festival and the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theatre Festival.
Ms. DuPois has shared the screen with James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Jack Nicholson, Lou Gossett Jr., Robert Duvall, David Alan Grier, Gena Rowlands, Anthony Anderson, Steve Harvey, Denzel Washington, and the late James Garner, among others. Her films include the cult classics Friday After Next with Martin Lawrence and Mike Epps, and Big Momma’s House with Martin Lawrence, Oliver Stone’s South Central, and perhaps most memorably, as Whitney Houston’s mother in Waiting to Exhale. She appeared in the Pan African Film Festival’s top prize-winning film, Ties That Bind, with Marla Gibbs. Television highlights include appearances in “Lost,” “Cold Case,” “Any Day Now,” “Strapped,” “Scream Queens,” and “Black Jesus.”
AN AWARD WINNING CAST includes Redaric Williams (Walter Lee Younger), Angelle Brooks (Ruth Younger), Charlotte Williams (Beneatha Younger), Jaden Martin (Travis Younger), Mohirah Hall (Joseph Asagai), Kristian Kordula (George Murchison), Jarard Kings (Bobo), and Josh Drennen (Karl Lindner). Understudies are Aaron Braxton, AJ Davis, Garrett Michael Green, Tommy Ruff, Tarina Pouncy, Kevin Ragsdale, Raquel Rosser, Claude Sharpe, and Jewel Tompkins.
Ryan Wilson will design the set for A Raisin in the Sun, Sarah Figoten Wilson is the costume designer, Mike Reilly is the lighting designer and production manager, and Chip Bolcik is the sound designer. Eric Barron is head dresser and prop master, Paul Ruddy is casting director and Nicole Millar is the stage manager.
Producer John Ruskin founded the company in 2001 bringing award winning theatre to Santa Monica. Along with Producer Michael Myers, who is responsible for launching over 70 productions, they have been touted for development of new plays and musicals such as Sideways, The Play and Paradise: A Divine Blue Grass Musical Comedy. Michael directed the world premiere of Digging Up Dad and the critically acclaimed production of Faithful at RGT. He is a co-creator of the Ruskin Group Theatre’s popular CAFÉ PLAYS, the monthly offering of one-acts that are done in 10 1/2 hours from conception to staging.
A Raisin in the Sun opens on Friday, July 22 and runs through Saturday, September 17, 2016 with performances at the Ruskin Group Theatre at 3000 Airport Avenue, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25, with discounts for students, seniors, and groups. For tickets and information call 310-397-3244 or visit this link.