Ask Philippa: 2014 Pre-season Edition

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, invites your questions about our 2014 season, which begins May 21. Subscriptions on sale now.

Philippa Kelly 2013

Photo of Philippa Kelly by Jay Yamada.

2014 brings a very exciting season for many reasons—not the least of which is that it’s Cal Shakes’ 40th anniversary.

First up is Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Patricia McGregor, who first joined us at the Bruns last in 2012 with her magnificent Spunk. A Raisin in the Sun offers a stunning portrait of a black family’s experience in racially divided Chicago, injecting domestic and racial tension into 1950s self-portraits of the post-war American Dream. Raisin made Hansberry the youngest playwright, the fifth woman, and the only black writer ever to win the New York Critics’ Circle award. (The play also inspired the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, written 60 years later and directed by our own Jonathan Moscone in an award-winning production at A.C.T. in 2011). Next is Shakespeare’s early play The Comedy of Errors, directed by Aaron Posner, a comic take on mistaken identity that offers a brilliant look at the dark side of Shakespeare as well as the light—loss, isolation, family reunion, and redemption. Third in our season director Moscone brings us Pygmalion, often seen as George Bernard Shaw’s most enduringly important play, a savagely ironic critique of the British class system. (This play, too, made such a social impact that it gave birth, 44 years later, to another masterpiece, the musical My Fair Lady.) Lastly is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shakespeare play most often described as “perfect” in its exploration of love that opens out, concertina-like, from an early threat of punishment and even death. Buoyed by perhaps the most beautifully poetic language of Shakespeare’s entire career, director Shana Cooper will take us into the “green world” of the forest—will the lovers emerge from the forest different, or more truly themselves?

Look out, too, for my free, off-season session, Reprises and Rehearsals, a look at how the plays of the 2013 and 2014 seasons connect to different works and themes in their authors’ lives. Date TBD. In the meantime, post any question or observation you like right now (and into the early spring) and I will post an answer as quickly as possible—often within 24 hours.

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9 Responses to Ask Philippa: 2014 Pre-season Edition

  1. Nancy Fickbohm says:

    Hi Phillippa, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
    Any dates set yet for your Reprises and Rehearsals? Sounds like a great addition to the audience enrichment programs. Always like to hear your insights of the plays and learn more about what the season and plays hold for us. Keep us posted. Thanks for all of your work and enthusiasm. Best to all the folks there. Nancy.

  2. philippa kelly says:

    Hello Nancy,
    The minute we set a date, I will post it here. It will be soon, though – before the season starts. Also, on April 3nd I’ll be talking at Swan Books about the upcoming season. It would be lovely to see you there.

  3. Patrick Golden says:


    This is in regard to the 40th anniversary.

    It seems that Bernard Taper can talk about things in long term memory just not short term. If you would like to talk with him, please let me know.

    Are you going to try to talk with Daikin Matthews?

    Best regards,

    • philippa kelly says:

      I’d love both, Patrick. Do you think we could meet together with Bernard? And Dakin too if you have time. thanks so much,

  4. Phillipa,
    are you a lover of horses?
    i recently got RAISIN dvd from library. not knowing it was on the menu. smashing play. smashing Diana Sands and that character so unexpected. and then it turns out Hansberry’s a lesbian and Beneatha suddenly stands out as a rarity on so many levels!
    i’m sure you have all sorts of exciting interventions planned to celebrate the presentation of this triple threat: great American play, black, woman, lesbian, genius — quadruple? quintuple? i’m losing count!
    what’s the best way to remain informed of what Cal Shakes is up to vis-a-vis ARITS?
    i recently caught 12th Night at its Civicore opening, an under-the-radar event that was such a rich experience. (i wrote about it at the above address.)
    have a smashing season!
    E B

  5. Erin Blackwell says:

    oops. that’s not the right way to post the link. here ’tis

  6. philippa kelly says:

    Hello Erin,

    It is so lovely to get this enthusiastic response about both TN and Raisin. There is on our web site a blog piece I wrote on twinning.
    And here is a little piece I’e just written to whet audience’s appetites about Raisin.
    best wishes


    What happens to a dream deferred?’ asks poet Langsdon Hughes in HARLEM. ‘Does it dry up 
like a raisin in the sun?’ Hughes, an African American, wrote this poem in 1951, and six years later it would be memorialized in the first play by a black woman to be performed on Broadway. Twenty-seven year-old Lorraine Hansberry drew on her own family’s experience to form the premise of A Raisin in the Sun. In 1938, when she was 8 years old, her father, a successful real estate agent, bought a house in the Washington Park Subdivision of the South Side of Chicago, violating a covenant that restricted blacks from purchasing or leasing land in that neighborhood. Despite violent attacks by white neighbors, the family refused to move out until a court ordered them to do so. But even so, the case made it to the Supreme Court, which made the somewhat ambiguous ruling that since 46 % of the Hansberry family’s new white neighborhood did not agree with racial segregation, citizens had the legal right to challenge the covenant again.

    For me, it’s not just this life-event that makes a fascinating backdrop to Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun: it’s also the ambiguity or lack of closure that an eight-year-old girl most likely ingested from her family’s experience. To be driven out of a neighborhood, but told that the covenant could be challenged again, gives a very mixed message, to say the least. How does a child cope with this ambiguity, and the stress it caused to her parents, simultaneously told that they had a right – and they had no right – to make a claim to the house that they had bought? Twenty years later, she writes a play about it. A Raisin in the Sun is not just about the cruel realities of racial segregation; it’s about the connections we humans make between ourselves and our houses; about money, both a golden key and a mere slip of paper; about manhood, about femininity, and who gets to say what these qualities are; about education and possibility. It’s also about the American Dream, that post-war fantasy pursued by families half-broken by the second world war, who thrust forward their children as their dreams. (Arthur Miller critiqued this dream with brutal poignancy in Death of a Salesman, written in 1949, just two years before Hughes wrote Harlem and eight years before Hansberry wrote Raisin). And Hansberry’s play is also about the dreams that dry up, perhaps to be replaced by others that re-light a sputtering candle of hope. Can the flame stay alive? Can it light the way forward?

  7. Sophia Menesini and Samantha Anderson says:

    Ms. Philippa Kelly,
    My name is Sophia, and my partner is Samantha. We are high school students at Alhambra High in Martinez. We have started a small production company called Bothered Fox in the last six months. We have just finished writing our first short film, and would like to know if we could use the Cal Shakes Theater for a scene in our short film. Please email us at the email attached to let us know if this is possible and if you are the person we need approval from.
    Thank you, and we hope to hear from you soon.

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