Theatre returns to black classics

Its been two years since Tallahassee Little Theatre has hosted an African-American play.

But in its 53rd season, this trend has been broken with a Lorraine Hansberry’s classic, “A Raisin in the Sun.”

“A Raisin in the Sun” has been a part of English and literature classes for decades.

The various actors who have contributed to the motion picture and play versions throughout the years have been nominated for many awards – and the actors featured in this play are no exception.

The play is set in the Younger’s apartment on Chicago’s Southside in the early 1950’s.

Lena Younger or “Mama”, is played by Dametria “Dee” Selmore, a theatre and foreign languages student at TCC.

“Mama” is a widow who, throughout the play, uses all of her good strengths to keep her immediate family from self-destructing and as far away from evil as possible.

Scenic designer Joseph Neil Reiter gave the stage a unique feel.

The combination of the costumes and furniture allude to a proud, lower-class black family trying to get by in the 1950’s. The music is lively both during the skits and in between scenes.

Everything is appropriate and follows suit with the text of A Raisin in the Sun.

Unfortunately, there was a buzz going around concerning the time span that has passed since Tallahassee Little Theatre had served as a venue for an African-American classic or any black play.

Whether it’s been a race issue on the part of the theatre authority or simply a timing issue on the part of the directors for black plays remains to be seen.

But three hours later, the final light dimmed and the crowd rose for a two-minute standing ovation.

It was obvious that any controversy was put on the “back burner” to the great performance by the cast and the great direction/production by the crew.

Robert C. Mitchell, who played Walter Lee Younger (“Mama’s” son), cares more about the present and the future when asked about the lack of history of plays based on African Americans featured at the theatre.

“They did put it on and they said Mitchell, senior theatre education student from Belle Glade. “It seems as though the barrier has been broken.”

It didn’t bother Mitchell that the audience on Thursday consisted of only 10 percent African-Americans.

“Raisin is so universal, everyone can relate to it,” he said.

Mitchell spoke about the richness of the characters in the play.

“Beneatha [Walter’s younger sister] is an example of women today, but she’s before their time,” he said

“Walter signifies the struggle that all blue -collar working class people go through. He’s really being held back in his time, but he exemplifies what a strong black man is about. He falls, but he gets back up.”

The director of the play was Jose Blanco F. who is not concerned with the amount of African American plays the theatre produces.

He recalls the last play done by an African-American playwright, Pearl Cleage’s “Blues for an Alabama Sky.”

“Blues” was directed by the Chair of the Department of Visual Arts, Humanities and Theatre, Valencia E. Matthews.

“Hopefully they’ll do another one,” he said. “But A Raisin in the Sun is powerful and we’re doing very well.”