VOCA to stage ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ through lens of Black Deaf culture

Visionaries of the Creative Arts presents Hansberry's classic with a mixed Deaf and hearing cast using multiple forms of signed and spoken communication.

Visionaries of the Creative Arts (VOCA) announces the cast and production team for their production of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic, A Raisin in the Sun. Reviving the production from their 2018 presentation at Gallaudet University, Co-Directors Michelle Banks and Nayte Paxton will take on the classic with previews on June 21 and 22 and opening on June 23 through July 2, 2023, in the Lang Theatre at Atlas Performing Arts Center.

Scene from the 2018 VOCA production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ at Gallaudet University.

A Raisin in the Sun is set in the small shared apartment of the Younger family, living in Chicago’s South Side. We see their story revolve around the family’s opposing dreams and conflicts of desire among the three generations of the family. Even while we see the family struggling with the effects of poverty and racism, each member of the family pushes toward their idea of the American dream. Lena Younger (Mama), the family’s matriarch, receives a $10,000 life insurance check as a result of her husband’s death. Mama’s American dream is to move her family into a new house in a nice neighborhood and help pay for her daughter, Beneatha’s medical school. However, Walter, her son, also has his American dream: to invest that money into his so-called business proposition, a liquor store.

Perspectives in this play mirror tones from the lawsuit Hansberry v. Lee (1940), of which the playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s father was a representative. Hansberry’s father was forced to fight a case based on racially motivated restrictive covenants that barred African Americans from purchasing or leasing land in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The Hansberry family won their right to be heard in court as a matter of due process of law, thanks to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Hansberry’s case is often referred to in teachings around res judicata.

This play is uniquely performed by a Deaf, HoH (Hard of Hearing), CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult), and hearing cast. The African American family reveals the perspective of Black Deaf culture and the use of American Sign Language (ASL) and Black American Sign Language (BASL) during the 1950s. The audience will experience various forms of communication among characters in the play — mixed ASL/BASL, SimCom (simultaneous communication), and spoken English. These forms of communication represent what one may see in today’s society and Deaf culture.

VOCA is the new Resident Arts Partner at Atlas Performing Arts Center, and VOCA’s A Raisin in the Sun will be the first full production at the venue in 2023. This year VOCA has performed the dramatic production of ISM at Gallaudet University. In addition, VOCA’s Culture Caucus presentation of In the Eye of a Deaf Child will be performed by Stella Antonio and directed by Monique Holt at the Kennedy Center’s REACH on May 27, 2023.

Making their VOCA debut with A Raisin in the Sun are Jessica Tuitt as Ruth Younger, Keith “Sho’ Roc” Brown as Joseph Asagai, DJ James as Lena (Mama) Younger, Marcus Smith as George Murchison, Daniel Davidson as Bobo, Robert Rhoads Jr. as Karl Lindner, Mya Hunter as Beneatha Younger, Kojo Amissah as Walter Lee Younger, Kayden Tuitt-Lyken as Travis Younger, and Daniel Davidson Jr. serving as the understudy for Travis.

Adding their presence to the Lang stage are voice actors Baakari Wilder voicing for Walter Lee, Phyllis Ballenger voicing for Lena (Mama), Trina Redmond voicing for Ruth, Letitia Bynoe voicing for Beneatha, and Klijah Mitchell voicing for Asagai, Travis, and Bobo.

The production team for A Raisin in The Sun includes Stage Managers Fatimah Abdul-Rahim and Dorian Fletcher, Director of Artistic Sign Language Felicia Williams, Costume Designer Ronnie Bradley, Wardrobe Assistant D’bora Ware, Sound Designer Justin Schmitz, Light Designer Helen Garcia-Alton, Light Associate Lillie Kahkonen-Timlin, and Set Designer Jonathan Mesich.

A Raisin in the Sun plays June 21 to July 2, 2023, presented by Visionaries of the Creative Arts performing in the Lang Theatre at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St NE, Washington, DC. June 21 and 22 are previews, and June 23 is opening night. Tickets are $40 for general admission, $35 for senior citizens, and $30 for students and groups (10 or more) and are available online.

COVID Safety: Atlas Performing Arts Center strongly recommends that all audience members wear masks while inside the venue, but they are no longer required. See Atlas’ complete COVID policy here.


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