The plot of “A Raisin in the Sun” follows the Younger family, played by Dez Walker, Jacinta Shanae, Zahirah Muhammad, Shelby Bradley and Wilson Roberson.

The plot of “A Raisin in the Sun” follows the Younger family, played by Dez Walker, Jacinta Shanae, Zahirah Muhammad, Shelby Bradley and Wilson Roberson.

Photo by Paul Manoian

Village Players to perform ‘A Raisin In The Sun’

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 13, 2023


BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Village Players are starting their 101st season with Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin In The Sun.”

Jay Kaplan will direct the Birmingham Village Players’ production starring Dez Walker, Jacinta Shanae, Zahirah Muhammad, Shelby Bradley and Wilson Roberson as the Younger family.

The award-winning play takes place in the 1950s in the segregated south side of Chicago and follows the life of the Youngers as they face racism, economic inequality and housing discrimination. Feminism and African nationalism are also prominent themes in  “A Raisin In The Sun.”

Hansberry, a civil rights and social justice advocate, challenged then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy along with her friend James Baldwin.

Kaplan said one of the reasons the Birmingham Village Players wanted to do this play is because some of its themes still resonate today.

“Although we have certainly made progress in the area of civil rights, some things still have not changed,” Kaplan said. “There is still a great deal of racism in our country and economic inequality still exists.”

The main conflict revolves around what is done with the life insurance money that the mother receives following the death of her husband. Within the three generations of the Youngers, some members of the family have differing opinions on what should be done with the money.

The Birmingham Village players are using a version of the script that was performed at the NY Public Theatre in 2022. This version has some differences. For instance, the Youngers’ neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, warns the family of the potential violence and backlash from their neighbors they may face if they move into an all-white neighborhood.

This version of the script also shows Ruth strongly considering having an abortion when she learns of her pregnancy, due to her family’s economic struggles.

“They did some subsequent productions of ‘A Raisin In The Sun’ after Lorraine Hansberry’s death, and there were other versions of the script that they decided to use that reflected some of these issues that maybe they thought they could not discuss back in 1959,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said the cast is made up of actors who have performed around metro Detroit, but most are new to the Birmingham Village Players.

“It is wonderful to have these talented, dedicated actors and performers that are part of this production,” Kaplan said. “They care very much about this play and what it has to say.”

Shanae is playing the role of Ruth Younger. Her character is married to Walter Lee Younger, and she is a hard-working mother who wants to provide the family with better living conditions.

“I feel like this has taken me back to my strong foundation of really understanding history, not just Black history, but the history of writing and the history of theater,” Shanae said.

This is Shanae’s first show with the Birmingham Village Players, but she has been active in local theater for a while. She is a writer and is known to put on productions throughout metro Detroit.

“My experience has been so welcoming, and I feel at home there,” Shanae said.

“A Raisin In The Sun” will be performed at 8 p.m. Sept. 15-16 and 22-23, and at 2 p.m. Sept. 17 and 24.

Purchase a ticket online or by calling the box office at (248) 644-2075. Reserved tickets cost $25, which includes the ticketing fee.

“I hope our production will not only solidify the appreciation of ‘A Raisin In The Sun’ and what it has to say but also make the statement that no matter how far we have come, we still have a way to go,” Kaplan said.