'A Raisin in the Sun' sends message of love, acceptance

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — The UCM Department of Theatre and Dance will feature an almost completely black cast in its production of “A Raisin in the Sun” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-19, in the Highlander Theatre.
“A Raisin in the Sun” is about the Youngers, a poor black family living in Chicago. When Lena “Mama” Younger’s husband dies, she receives a life insurance check for $10,000 and decides to move into a better, more refined neighborhood. Each character in the play has a dream and must figure out how to better his or her own life. The play deals mainly with issues of racism.
Director Julie Mollenkamp, professor of theater, said the cast is performing the original play by Lorraine Hansberry. She said it was produced on Broadway in 1959.
“It’s incredibly powerful and pertinent for 2016, in some ways maybe even more so than in 1959, because in 50 years we haven’t moved forward as we could have,” Mollenkamp said.
Mollenkamp said about 200 students read “A Raisin in the Sun” every semester as part of an introduction to theater course. She said students are greatly impacted by the play.
“We can see it in their writing about the play (and) in their discussion about the play, because it reminds us that when we engage in generalities or stereotyping, we lose our humanity,” Mollenkamp said. “But when we see the person standing in front of us, people are people. And it is so easy to identify with someone who feels frustrated and angry and cheated, and who feels in love and inspired and hopeful, because we feel all those things.”
Mollenkamp said directing the play has caused her to grow so much.
“One of the things no one ever tells you about teaching is how much you get to learn from your students, and that is what’s the joy of the work,” Mollenkamp said. “And this particular cast has been so gracious and so hard-working; it’s been just a life-changing experience of joy.”
UCM senior Libby Pecher worked on the scenic design for the production.
“Basically, I figure out what exactly the script calls for, and then based on that I decide on form, color, all the little tiny details that go into this,” Pecher said. “I’ve always really loved this script because this is something we think only happened in the early 1900s, when in fact it’s absolutely 100 percent still culturally relevant – culturally, socially, politically relevant – especially right now.”
Daisha Jackson, a sophomore at UCM, plays the role of “Mama.” She said she hopes those watching the play take away an eye-opening message about love and acceptance.
“Just to open many more eyes up to poverty, and realize that people who you think may be different – they’re still people at the end of the day,” Jackson said. “And love is what people need.”
Pecher said she hopes this play helps people realize that people still go through situations like this, although maybe not in the same way.
“I hope that it builds an understanding on our campus that there is a problem that (racism) is still occurring, and that as young people it’s our job to help fix it,” she said. “We are the next generation. We are the people that will be leading our country.”
Mollenkamp said she hopes people will begin to recognize and challenge bigotry when they see it.
“When you wear your diversity on your face, when you are a person of color, you cannot closet that. You cannot hide that, and so you are faced minute by minute with discrimination and bigotry,” Mollenkamp said. “And this play points that out by allowing you to fall in love with these dynamic, beautifully-written characters and all their great strengths and tremendous foibles. So much so, then when they are denied their right to do something they want to do as a family, it is the most affronting thing you can imagine because you feel like it is happening to you.”
Tickets for “A Raisin in the Sun” cost $12 for the public, $10 for UCM staff, faculty, the military and senior citizens and $7 for students. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office in Wood 128. For more information, call 660-543-8811, or go to https://www.ucmo.edu/theatre/calendar/tickets.cfm.