Owen Tabaka, Jasmine Batchelor, Brenda Pressley, Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson Photo by Lia Chang

In the Rehearsal Room with Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Brenda Pressley and More in Two River Theater’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN

Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ.
Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ.

Two River Theater’s much anticipated production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is deep in rehearsal and I was invited to document a run thru on Saturday afternoon by director Carl Cofield.

Director Carl Cofield Photo by Lia Chang
Director Carl Cofield
Photo by Lia Chang

Performances will begin in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, September 9 and continue for an extended four-week run, through Sunday, October 8. The opening night performance is Friday, September 15 at 7pm. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org. The lead production sponsor is Riverview Medical Center and the media partner is WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM.

(Standing) Willie Dirden, York Walker, Charlie Hudson III, director Carl Cofield, Nat DeWolf, David Joel Rivera, Andrew Binger. (Seated) Owen Tabaka, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley, Jasmine Batchelor and Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Lia Chang
(Standing) Willie Dirden, York Walker, Charlie Hudson III, director Carl Cofield, Nat DeWolf, David Joel Rivera, Andrew Binger. (Seated) Owen Tabaka, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley, Jasmine Batchelor and Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast of A Raisin in the Sun includes Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger), Nat DeWolf (Karl Lindner), Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger), Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger), Willie Dirden (Bobo), Charlie Hudson III (Joseph Asagai), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger), Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger), and York Walker (George Murchison). Andrew Binger and David Joel Rivera play the Moving Men.

The cast and creative team of A RAISIN IN THE SUN Photo by Lia Chang
The cast and creative team of A RAISIN IN THE SUN
Photo by Lia Chang

The creative team includes scenic designers Christopher & Justin Swader, costume designer Elivia Bovenzi, lighting designer Kathy A. Perkins, Sound Designer Karin Graybash, and wigs designer Valerie Gladstone. The casting is by Jack Doulin + Sharky, and the stage manager is Lloyd Davis, Jr.

In this landmark drama, Hansberry-drawing on her own family’s experience with housing discrimination-dramatizes the story of the Younger family, headed by matriarch Lena Younger, her son Walter Lee, and his wife, Ruth, who live (with other family members) in poverty on Chicago’s south side. As the play begins, we see that Walter Lee, a chauffeur, dreams of what he might do with a long-promised life-insurance check, a legacy left to them to them by Lena’s late husband.

Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden
Photo by Lia Chang

We meet the Younger family on the day that their lives could change forever. Taking its title from a poem by Langston Hughes-“What happens to a dream deferred/Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”-Hansberry’s play explores the different hopes and aspirations of each member of the Younger family as they fight for their piece of the American Dream.

Owen Tabaka, Jasmine Batchelor, Brenda Pressley, Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson Photo by Lia Chang
Owen Tabaka, Jasmine Batchelor, Brenda Pressley, Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson
Photo by Lia Chang

A Raisin in the Sun debuted in 1959 and was the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. Produced at Two River for the first time in the theater’s 24-year history, the play is Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal masterpiece about race, social justice, and history-American history in the largest sense, and the personal histories of ordinary African-Americans.

A Raisin in the Sun is not only one of America’s greatest plays,” says Artistic Director John Dias, “it is in fact one of the greatest works of art ever created. Lorraine Hansberry uses the metaphor of the family to illuminate something profound about who we are as Americans.

Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson
Photo by Lia Chang

We have built this production around the talents of an extraordinary family of Two River actors: Brenda Pressley as Lena Younger; Brandon J. Dirden as Walter Lee Younger; and Brandon’s wife, Crystal A. Dickinson, as Ruth Younger.

Willie Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Lia Chang
Willie Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden
Photo by Lia Chang

Joining them will be Brandon’s father, Willie Dirden, as Bobo, making this the first time that father and son have acted together. Carl Cofield’s production will resonate today as a story of how courage, hope and love trump our ongoing history of inequity and injustice.”

Ticket prices range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.

Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley and Owen Tabaka Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley and Owen Tabaka
Photo by Lia Chang

INSIDE TWO RIVER:
Inside Two River is a series of events specially curated for each Two River Theater production. For more information or to reserve seats, patrons should visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.

Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Jasmine Batchelor and Nat DeWolf Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Jasmine Batchelor and Nat DeWolf Photo by Lia Chang

AUDIENCE EXTRAS:
Before Play and Lobby Display
Audiences will learn about Lorraine Hansberry and A Raisin in the Sun in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations
Discussions with the cast and a member of Two River’s Artistic staff will take place on Sunday, September 24 at 3pm; Wednesday, September 27 at 1pm; and Wednesday, October 4 at 7pm.

Crystal A. Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden and Jasmine Batchelor Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden and Jasmine Batchelor
Photo by Lia Chang

ACCESSIBILITY:
Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and tworivertheater.org. This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater’s front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN costumes by Elivia Bovenzi Photo by Lia Chang
A RAISIN IN THE SUN costumes by Elivia Bovenzi
Photo by Lia Chang

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, September 27 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, September 30 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail boxoffice@trtc.org.

The world of A RAISIN IN THE SUN Photo by Lia Chang
The world of A RAISIN IN THE SUN
Photo by Lia Chang

Since its founding in 1994, Two River Theater has been committed to creating great American theater by developing and producing work by some of the country’s leading artists. We are proud to be viewed as a vital cultural resource in the community of Red Bank, New Jersey. Through 10 theatrical productions each year (including world premieres, musicals, classics and theater for young audiences) and 50+ annual events happening around Monmouth County, we produce exceptional theater and cultivate engaged audiences. Two River celebrates and honors our core values of Artistic Excellence; Education and Community Engagement; Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; and Operational Excellence. Two River Theater is under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst.

Charlie Hudson III and Nat DeWolf Photo by Lia Chang
Charlie Hudson III and Nat DeWolf
Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Lia Chang and Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Carl Cofield
Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Lia Chang and Brandon J. Dirden
Photo by Carl Cofield
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2017 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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