Inside Valencia’s production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’


Preparations are underway for a live production of the classic American play, “A Raisin in the Sun” at the Black Box Theater at Valencia’s east campus. This play will dive head first into powerfully compelling subject matter, with high emotions from complicated characters.

The original production was developed by Lorraine Hansberry, inspired by the struggles of her own family, wrote the play and went on to receive four Tony award nominations when it premiered on Broadway in 1960. Along with the Valencia Theater production’s talented cast is guest actor Avis-Marie Barnes who plays the family’s main supporter and nurturer, Mama. She is a seasoned performer who has acted professionally in several movies and television programs.

“It’s a punch to the gut, and that’s what I want,” said the plays director, John DiDonna. “I want it to be a punch in the gut from the time it starts to the time it ends. I don’t want the audience to have a chance to breathe.”

The story follows the problems of an extended African-American family, living together in a cramped and rundown apartment, dealing with racism, poverty, and tragedy during the 1950s. Issues of morality, betrayal and discrimination are sure to strike an emotional cord with those in attendance.

The focus and momentum of the entire production is on Walter Lee Younger, played by drama veteran Parris Baker. He has big dreams, passionate views and the need to find a purpose in his life. He is also under stress at work and home, and when he finally starts to see his dreams come true he is kicked back down by cruel twists of fate.

“When something is well written like this play you can dive into the words, and when you make the words your own, then the emotion will carry,” said Parris Baker, who plays Walter. This demanding role is strongly defined and personalized by Baker, who was inspired by the original performance of the revered actor Sidney Poitier.

The rest of the cast has shining moments and conflicting issues that they face and support each other through. Most notably is the supporting role played by the character Mama, whose morally strong spirit perseveres to hold the Younger family together.

Issues addressed in this play are still related to issues faced today more then 50 years after it was written and premiered on Broadway in 1959. Originally it was given mixed reviews for focusing on problems found primarily in the black community, making it hard to relate to for white audiences. The truth is that anyone with a shred of empathy can relate to these universal conflicts of poverty, misjudgement and important decisions about life.

The youngest character is the troubled son of Walter named Travis Younger, played by the 11-year-old Christopher Redman Jr. He witnesses the hardships endured by his family throughout the story, and has to sleep on the living room sofa because he doesn’t have his own room.

“It teaches him to be appreciative of what he has at this day and time,” said Christopher ‘s mother, Alycia Redman. The strong lessons learned by her son about injustice and double standards can also be shared by anyone who watches this production.

The actors are fine tuning their blocking, the set construction is almost complete, and overall, the production is currently ahead of schedule for opening night. Under the passionate enthusiasm of director John DiDonna, the cast and crew are all more than confident that the audience will be treated to a powerfully moving experience.

Tickets are already being sold for this play with a strong recommendation to purchase ahead of time, because days are already being sold out weeks in advance for the small theater. “A Raisin in the Sun” will run from Feb. 15-19 and Feb. 22-26. For more information or to order tickets for the show check out the official web site at