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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ inspires spinoffs and debate

When Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” opened in New York on March 11, 1959, it was the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway, and its director, Lloyd Richards, was the first black director to work there as well. Hansberry was also the first black playwright (and the youngest) to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Since then, the drama about a black family’s dream to move into a white neighborhood in pre-civil-rights-era Chicago has been translated into 30 languages and has been continually produced in church basements, community halls, school auditoriums, and professional theaters.

And now the play is sparking a reenergized debate about race relations in theaters here and nationwide. “Raisin” begins performances Friday at the Huntington Theatre Company. Meanwhile, “Clybourne Park,” Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2010 play examining the same Chicago neighborhood 50 years later, is receiving its Boston premiere in a SpeakEasy Stage Company production that runs through March 30 at the Boston Center for the Arts. A book published last year, “Reimagining ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ ’’ includes four plays that jump off from where “Raisin” ends, and another spinoff play, “Beneatha’s Place,” makes its world premiere in May at Center Stage in Baltimore.

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