Why Was March 11 1959 a Momentous Day in the History of the American Theater?

March 11, 1959, was a momentous day in the history of American theater. It was the day when the first Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” premiered at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The play was groundbreaking in many ways and left an indelible mark on American theater.

The Play

“A Raisin in the Sun” is a play that explores themes of racial discrimination, family dynamics, and personal aspirations. The story revolves around a black family living in Chicago’s South Side in the 1950s. The family is struggling to make ends meet, and they are about to receive a $10,000 insurance check after the death of their patriarch.

The matriarch of the family, Lena Younger, wants to use the money to buy a house for her family. However, her son Walter Lee has different plans for the money. He wants to invest it in a business venture that he believes will bring him financial success.

The play deals with themes like assimilation, racism, and economic hardship. It was one of the first plays to portray African-American characters with such depth and complexity.

The Impact

“A Raisin in the Sun” was an instant success on Broadway. It ran for 530 performances and won numerous awards, including four Tony Awards. The play was also adapted into a film in 1961, which starred Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee.

The play’s impact went beyond just its critical and commercial success. It paved the way for other African-American writers and actors on Broadway. Before “A Raisin in the Sun,” there were very few opportunities for black actors or writers on Broadway.

Hansberry’s play inspired other African-American playwrights like August Wilson, who wrote “Fences,” which also won numerous awards on Broadway.

The Legacy

Today, “A Raisin in the Sun” is considered a classic of American theater. It is regularly performed in theaters across the country and is studied in high school and college curriculums.

The play’s impact on American theater cannot be overstated. It was a groundbreaking piece of work that paved the way for other African-American artists to tell their stories on Broadway. It also helped bring issues of racial discrimination and economic hardship to the forefront of American culture.

In conclusion, March 11, 1959, was a momentous day in the history of American theater because it marked the premiere of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” The play was groundbreaking in its portrayal of African-American characters and themes. Its impact on American theater can still be felt today, making it a true classic of American literature.