As opening night of A Raisin in the Sun approaches and the production comes together, we at Cal Shakes have been learning more about the history of an amazing playwright, Lorraine Hansberry. Hansberry was an anomaly and a prodigal author in her day; after growing up in a segregated America, Hansberry became the first African American woman to have a play on Broadway. Privately, Hansberry was a lesbian in a time when LGBT civil rights were not even on most Americans’ radars; still, she fought for civil rights in her writing and activism throughout her life.
All of this makes more interesting this fragment of a notebook page from her life, owned by the New York Public Library and rediscovered recently. On April 1, 1960, Hansberry scrawled on legal pad an offbeat list of things that she liked, hated, and wanted, with a final column for what she was “bored to death with.” The fragment is unique for the window it opens on her mind and disposition; it is both sad and funny, political and personal. “My homosexuality” appears twice, as a like and a hate; “racism,” “death,” “pain,” and “cramps” are all hates, along with “what has happened to Sydney Poitier” (who had starred in the first Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun in 1959).
The page also reflects on many of the themes present in A Raisin in the Sun. We see Hansberry thinking about family (she likes “my husband, mostly [sic] the time” ), about status and social justice (“racism” as a “hate”), and about aspiration (“Eartha Kitt’s looks” she likes).
In considering this document, we decided it would be fun to poll our fans to create a similar list. What does our audience “like” and “hate”? How would you have written your list?
In the comments section below, feel free to add your own likes and hates list, in the spirit of Hansberry. We plan to collect these and put the best ones in the program for A Raisin in the Sun.
A Raisin in the Sun tickets are now on sale. Learn more about our upcoming production, peruse the cast list, and look at available dates here.