Yolanda King, the eldest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will star as “Mama” in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun this September. The play will open the 2004-2005 season at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. According to David Feldshuh, artistic director of the Schwartz Center in a note to its subscribers, the season’s productions will concentrate on mutual understanding, tolerance and humanity.
The issues the Schwartz Center will explore next year are similar to the issues King has worked with during her career. She believes that she can combine her efforts toward social change with her artistic pursuits.
“While it is imperative to actively challenge the forces that deny human beings their right to a decent life . . . one must also stimulate and alter the hearts and minds of both the privileged as well as those who have been too long denied. Within the arts lies this power,” King said in the biography on her website.
King’s acting career began very early. According to the biography, “at the age of eight, she wrote a play in which she directed her reluctant siblings and subsequently performed for her parents and friends. By the age of twelve, she had choreographed two musicals and directed several theatrical productions.”
Recently, King has starred in The Ghosts of Mississippi, directed by Rob Reiner, and Odessa, which was nominated for an academy award.
“If you look at her body of work as an actor, she has been very much involved in plays and movies with a civil rights theme. This is definitely something that she’s interested in and we’re very honored to have her working with us,” said Angela Bourne ’01, management operations assistant at the Schwartz Center.
A Raisin in the Sun will be directed by Regge Life, who has been honored by the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and is the founder of Global Film Network, Inc. His company has produced films about the racial landscape in Japan, where Life lived for several years beginning in 1992. Life initially went to Japan as a Creative Artist’s Fellow with the Japan/U.S. Friendship Commission and Bunka-cho, the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan.
The visiting artists’ contributions have created high expectations at the Schwartz Center.
“A Raisin in the Sun is an exceptional, riveting play: an American classic that is as important now as when it was first written. The opportunity for our students to work alongside an artist of the stature of Yolanda King and under the guidance of a superb guest director [Regge Life] promises to create a memorable production,” Feldshuh said.
Kent Goetz, department chair of theater, film and dance, will be designing the sets for the production.
“It’s truly an honor for us to be able to present to the Ithaca community this important American classic with the gracious help of accomplished guest artists, Regge Life and Yolanda King. Working on this beautifully written and artfully crafted play undoubtedly will be a profound experience for the faculty, staff and students here at the Schwartz Center. As a scene designer, I have been waiting for the opportunity to design this piece my whole career, and am now eager to collaborate with the Cornell production team on this noble project,” he said.
The remainder of the Schwartz Center’s season will include a musical revue of the Belgian songwriter and poet Jacques Brel; The Good Person of Setzuan, by Bertolt Brecht; Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, by American Beauty writer and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball; the world premiere of The Nero Project and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Season subscription information is available at the Schwartz Center box office.
Archived article by Tony Apuzzo
Sun Senior Writer