A Raisin in the Sun Poster
Organization: Black Theatre Workshop
Address: 3680 Jeanne Mance, Montreal, QC H2X 2K5
Contact: Adele Benoit, gm(a)blacktheatreworkshop.ca
Description: The Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal’s 2010 production of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.
Year made: 2010
Made by: Illustration: Ellen Smallwood, Design: Em Dash Design
Colours: Full-colour photograph
Provenance: Montreal, Quebec
Size: 108 cm x 121.2 cm
Photos: Courtesy Black Theatre Workshop
Black Theatre Workshop
The Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal’s (BTW) 2010 production of A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, marked the 40th anniversary of “the only [A]nglophone, black professional theatre company in Quebec, and the oldest professional Black theatre company in Canada” (Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada] 24 Nov. 2010). The title of the play echoes a line from Langston Hughes poem, “A Dream Deferred.” Hansberry’s play explored the themes of this poem, written during the Harlem Renaissance. The BTW, through its creation and productions, responded to these same themes found in society.
“Faced with "benevolent neglect" and virtual exclusion from mainstream society in Quebec, [Black Quebecers] responded by creating over 100 new associations and institutions...They created a new theatre (Black Theatre Workshop) initially with a distinct Caribbean cultural focus” (Bayne, Kola 19.2 2007).
The Black Theatre Workshop develops Black actors who seldom have an opportunity to work in theatres that mount plays with a traditionally White cast. In its selection of projects, the BTW also develops alternative views of Black people through the dissemination of Black culture.
As with any racial group, culture is intertwined with one’s country of origin, and, when applicable, one’s country of residence. The BTW originally produced shows that promoted a Caribbean culture. (The BTW evolved from the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Montreal, which was created in 1964) (Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada] 24 Nov. 2010)
When the theatre originally produced A Raisin in the Sun in 1979, it “marked a shift in the evolution of the BTW. “Until that point, the Workshop had been more of a grassroots Caribbean-based company; this widened our focus and appeal ” (Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada] 24 Nov. 2010).
Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun is a pillar of Black theatre. The play debuted on March 11, 1959, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City. At the time, “it was the first Broadway play ever to be written by an African-American woman, the first ever to be directed by an African-American director (Lloyd Richards), and starred a then-up-and-coming actor by the name of Sidney Poitier (as well as Ruby Dee and Louis Gossett Jr.)” (Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada] 24 Nov. 2010).
Considering that stories about Black people are usually written by predominantly white writers, produced by predominantly white producers for a predominantly white audience and that this play debuted before the abolishment of segregation and before the legal prohibition of discrimination, its production was no small feat.
Sadly, Hansberry succumbed to cancer at the age of 34, in January 1965 (Hansberry, p. 153). “Her creative literary ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today,” predicted Martin Luther King, Jr., on her death, “will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn” (Hansberry, p.153).
Hansberry’s play was an eloquent choice for the BTW. The play and the theatre address the same situation: a Black perspective on Black stories. “The situation…is much more complex than the technical production of a play or readings of work. We are talking of the performing arts as self-definition, the re-creation of self, the search for purpose, and location in an emerging society. There has [sic] been Blacks in Quebec as far back as 1660. Thus there is a story to be told” (Bayne, Kola 19.2 2007).
And yet, Black stories are seldom told. The BTW strives to tell these stories.
It also honours those who do, through the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award (Clarke, Canadian Periodicals Index Quarterly 2013). Since 1986, “the Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal has been honouring individuals for their contribution to the development of the African-Canadian presence” (Clarke, Canadian Periodicals Index Quarterly 2013). Honourees have included Charlie Biddle, Jeri Brown, Austin Clark, Charles Ellison, Bertrand A. Henry, Ranee Lee, Trevor Payne, and Daisy Peterson-Sweeny.
"A place in the sun: Black theatre company marks 40 years and counting." Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada] 24 Nov. 2010: R1. Canadian Periodicals Index Quarterly. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
Document URL http://0-go.galegroup.com.mercury.concordia.ca/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA242725...
Clarence Bayne, "The Black Theatre Workshop (BTW): An Artistic Cultural Experience in Canadian Diversity." Kola 19.2 (2007): 39+. Canadian Periodicals Index Quarterly. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
Document URL http://0-go.galegroup.com.mercury.concordia.ca/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA171442...
Gale Document Number: GALE|A171442210.
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun, 1994.
Austin Clarke, "Honored by Montreal Black Theatre Workshop." Kola 11.1 (1999): 24+. Canadian Periodicals Index Quarterly. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.
Document URL http://0-go.galegroup.com.mercury.concordia.ca/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA909879...
Gale Document Number: GALE|A90987989
To Learn More
Playwrights Guild of Canada http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/
The Black Theatre Workshop http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/black-theatre-workshop
“The Growth and Development of Black Theatre in Canada,” Theatre Research in Canada, http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/tric/article/view/7342/8401
Black Theatre Workshop: http://www.blacktheatreworkshop.ca/?page_id=1251
Excerpt of BTW’s production of A Raisin in the Sun: http://youtube/SSqNggk9WdA
Danny Glover recites Langston Hughes’ “Dream Deferred”: http://youtube/P4RSZeN721A
Whether editing or writing, Blossom Thom thrives while immersed in words. She is able to work on both sides of this cloth by understanding language and remembering its pleasure. Raised in Southern Ontario, Blossom's heart led her to Montreal, Quebec, where she now makes her home.