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July 29, 2021

Lorraine Hansberry In Five Plays


Recognized as one of America’s most revered playwrights, Lorraine Hansberry has articulated stories of the Black American community with love, care and compassion, bringing them to the stage to roaring reviews.

Though she died at age 34, and only two of the plays below were produced during her lifetime, Hansberry changed the face of American theatre, and she continues to make a mark on stages around the world. Take a moment to celebrate some of her key pieces below.

A Raisin in the Sun (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 3f, 7m, 1 boy)
Lorraine Hansberry

The first play written by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun has been making its mark on the theatrical world since 1959. Set in Chicago’s South Side, the play revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis, and matriarch Lena. When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama Lena dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago, but Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans – buying a liquor store and being his own man. The tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama. The Younger family’s heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration.

Les Blancs (The Whites) (US)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 3f, 8m, 5m or f, 1 boy or girl)
Lorraine Hansberry and Robert Nemiroff

Well-known for being Hansberry’s final and most important play, this piece was originally penned as a response to Jean Genet’s play Les Negres (The Blacks) in 1959. Released posthumously by Hansberry’s ex-husband Robert Nemiroff, with very minor adjustments, Les Blancs remains one of her best works.

The setting is a white Christian mission in a colony about to explode; the time is that hour of reckoning when no one can evade the consequences of white colonialism and imperatives of Black liberation. Tshembe Matoseh, the English educated son of a chief, has come home to bury his father. He finds his teenage brother a near alcoholic and his older brother a priest and traitor to his people. Forswearing politics and wanting only to return to his wife and child in England, Tshembe is drawn into the conflict symbolized by a woman dancer, the powerful Spirit of Africa who pursues him.


Raisin (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 6f, 9m)
Lorraine Hansberry, Robert Nemiroff, Judd Woldin, Charlotte Zaltzberg and Robert Brittan

This may be a musical, but we couldn’t keep ourselves from adding it to this list. A Tony award-winning adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun, this soulful, inspiring show is focused around a proud Black family’s quest for a better life, punctuated by outstanding musical numbers.

Co-written by Hansberry’s ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, and Charlotte Zaltzberg, and with music and lyrics by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan respectively, this adaptation opened to great reviews from the likes of The New York Times, and reportedly received standing ovations every night.


The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (US)
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 3f, 5m)
Lorraine Hansberry

Hansberry’s second Broadway play – which closed on the night of her death – is the probing, hilarious and provocative story of Sidney, a disenchanted Greenwich Village intellectual, his wife Iris, an aspiring actress, and their colorful circle of friends and relations. Set against the shenanigans of a stormy political campaign, the play follows its characters in their unorthodox quests for meaningful lives in an age of corruption, alienation and cynicism. With compassion, humor and poignancy, Hansberry questions the fragility of love, morality and ethics, interracial relationships, drugs, rebellion, conformity and, especially, withdrawal from or commitment to the world.

Written at a time of great social reform in America, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window explores themes of race, suicide and homosexuality, whilst also focusing on individual characters as they learn to cope with the trials and tribulations that life throws their way.


To Be Young, Gifted and Black (US)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 5f, 3m)
Lorraine Hansberry and Robert Nemiroff

A long-running success of the 1968/69 off-Broadway season, this play brings together carefully curated elements from Hansberry’s personal life – including letters, diaries, poems and personal reminiscences – to tell us the story of one of America’s greatest playwrights.   

Fast-paced, powerful, touching and hilarious, this kaleidoscope of constantly shifting scenes, mood and images recreates the world of a great American woman and artist, Lorraine Hansberry. Uniquely and boldly, the play dramatically weaves through her life experiences and the times that shaped her. The actors slip ingeniously into and out of a variety of challenging roles spanning her life and experiences to the ultimate confrontation when cancer strikes her.

Visit our website in the US and UK to discover all these shows and more.