The Black Olive Community Theatre will host “Staged-Reading of A Raisin in the Sun” this Saturday, Nov. 3, 6-9 p.m. at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center.
This will be the third staged-reading done in Madison by the Black Olive Community Theatre has already produced successful productions of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie.”
“For this production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ it’s a mixture – it’s some people that I’ve worked with through the other productions and some people that I’ve pulled together who were interested in this project,” Oroki Rice, artistic director of Black Olive Community Theatre, tells Madison365. “We have a cast of ten. We have been rehearsing this week. And we’re really looking forward to Saturday”
Rice, who was born and raised in Chicago and has lived there since 2010 after living in Madison, started Black Olive Community Theatre, a community theatre community that specializes in staged-readings, about a year ago.
“In a staged-reading, the actors have the script in their names without all the full props and costumes,” she says. “They read the scripts and they remain seated and standing and there’s minimal stage movement. We rehearse and have a great feel for the characters and it’s just as powerful as a play is.
“The benefit of doing staged-readings is that you don’t have to have the finances to come up with a big set and all that other stuff that goes with having a big production,” she adds. “I like to do theatre that stirs people up and makes them think. I don’t necessarily want to make people feel warm and fuzzy when they walk out of the play; I want them to be able to think about what happened in the production.”
Normally after staged-reading, there are so many interesting ideas and concepts brought up in the production so Rice likes to have the audience stick around for a Q and A session. “We will probably do that on Saturday, too,” she says. “Things get stirred up in people and we like to be able to address things. I want people to be stimulated by our production … I want them to think and maybe have another view of something that they always took for granted. That has always been one of my goals.”
“A Raisin in the Sun” is a famous play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. The story portrays a few weeks in the life of the Youngers, an African-American family living in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood in the 1950s, who attempt to “better” themselves with an insurance payout of $10,000 following the death of the father.
“‘A Raisin in the Sun’ means so much to me as someone living in Chicago, on the south side, where the story takes place,” Rice says. “It’s a great play with a lot of great messages and it gives the audience a lot to think about.”
Since the original cast was all black except for one actor, “A Raisin in the Sun” was considered a risky investment back in the day, and it took over a year for producer Philip Rose to raise enough money to launch it. “A Raisin in the Sun” would soon become the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway, as well as the first with a black director. The New York Drama Critics’ Circle named it the best play of 1959.
“It takes place in the 1950s and it just spoke to a lot of the things that were going on at that time,” Rice says. “Everybody has their mind on what’s going to happen with that check from Walter Sr. and momma is the deciding factor.”
In 1961, a film version of “A Raisin in the Sun” was released featuring its original Broadway cast of Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon, Louis Gossett, Jr. and John Fiedler.
“I can remember watching the original play with Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee and Diana Sands,” Rice says. “And I didn’t realize this right away, but the whole story takes place in one room the whole time, the whole script … that family stays in that one room. They may step away occasionally to that bedroom but it’s just about all in that one room. That’s pretty cool.”
Rice says she’s looking forward to bringing “A Raisin in the Sun” to life at Badger Rock this Saturday.
“All three productions that we’ve done so far in Madison, we’ve done over at Badger Rock,” Rice says. “They are very supportive of us and it’s a great place to be. It’s beautiful and they are doing a lot of great things over there.
“Our goal is to get 100 people over there on Saturday,” she adds. “We’ve got a little following now; this is our third production. We’d like to have even more. We’ve got some credibility that we know how to get you thinking there. I’m really excited about this.”
Hosted by Black Olive Community Theatre, Staged-Reading of A Raisin in the Sun will take place Saturday, Nov. 3, 6-9 p.m. at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, 501 E Badger Rd.