Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Book by Robert Nemiroff & Charlotte Zaltzberg

Music by Judd Woldin
Lyrics by Robert Brittan
Directed by Dev Bondarin
Produced by Astoria Performing Arts Center

Nominations: Outstanding Production of a Musical;
Outstanding Director, Dev Bondarin; Outstanding Set Design, Lawrence E. Moten III;  Outstanding Sound Design, Emma Wilk; Outstanding Costume Design, Jeannipher Pacheco; Outstanding Choreography/Movement, Tamrin Goldberg; Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role, Warren Nolan Jr.; Outstanding Ensemble: Maia Bedford, Aaron Casey, Shabazz Green, Chris Gwynn, Marcie Henderson, Greg Horton, Brandi Knox, Billy Lowrimore, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Sarita Amani Nash, Warren Nolan, Jr., Chinua B. Payne, Tony Perry, Joi Danielle Price, Vanessa Robinson, Alicia Thomas, Cartreze Tucker
Photos by Michael Dekker
About the Company: APAC’s mission is to bring high quality theater to Astoria, Queens and greater NYC, and to support local youth and senior citizens.

About the Production: Raisin is a musical adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.

The cast and crew of Raisin share their experiences of bringing this timely work back to New York City for the first time in 40 years.


What first attracted you to this project?

Joi: I was intrigued by the opportunity to work on a show so rarely discussed and barely ever performed. The source material is very well known and I felt it had an important message. The opportunity to musicalize the world depicted in that play presented a unique artistic challenge. I also felt that the opportunity to present a slice of African-American life on the stage was very timely. We are living at a time where people are turning inward to examine their own experiences and communicate with others who are from their own community - especially on the internet - and band together with people who have similar points of view. Giving audiences a chance to step into a world which may have a very different viewpoint with different struggles helps us all to empathize with each other and respect differing experiences.
Lawrence: I have always been drawn to opportunities to tell the stories of underrepresented people, people on the margins. I find the story of Raisin in the Sun to be an honest portrayal of life that allows actors of color to take center stage and not be stereotypes. To take that story and transform it into a beautiful musical is the great work of the book and music writers and I jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

Marcie: Musical of a Lorraine Hansberry masterpiece
Chinua: My mom telling me the history of the play Raisin/A Raisin In The Sun.

Horton: The rarity of working on this particular piece.
Thomas: Being able to share this story with everyone that hasn't been told in NY for more than 40 years.

Brandi: It's never done and I think its an important story and piece of literature.

Gwynn: The "working" part. Seriously, I was thinking about leaving the profession all together at the time I auditioned because I haven't worked consistently.

Emma: That the show hadn't had an NYC revival yet, and the theater's location in Astoria

Jeannipher: The relevance: working class and race. A Raisin in the Sun was one of the first plays I read in high school. I remember relating my living situation with the Younger's, in terms of space, money and family. I was not aware that a musical adaptation existed till Dev Bondarin, the director, emailed me seeking for a costume designer. I was excited to get the opportunity to work on something that touches close to home, that is still relatable, and a musical (something, I don't have much experience with).

Maia: I was first attracted to the story itself. How awesome to have a musical adaptation of the iconic A Raisin in the Sun.

Sarita: I loved that Raisin is the classic story we all know in the play Raisin in the Sun, but with music added, which gives the characters the opportunity to sing and express themselves in a heightened, beautiful way. That really excited me.

Shabazz: Raisin is a rarely produced musical based on the incredible play A Raisin in the Sun. Both have been favorites of mine for many years, and the opportunity to bring the musical back to life in New York City was an opportunity you can't pass up.

Tamrin: Raisin in the Sun is such an incredible and well known piece of theater, but so many people have never heard of the Tony-Award-winning work of genius that is Raisin. To make my New York theater choreographic debut in such a unique way was an opportunity not to miss. What a gift to be involved in bringing this show back to New York for the first time in over forty years!

Tony: Its a legendary piece and is rarely done.

Vanessa: I've worked with APAC before, in Ragtime, so I knew they were a quality company. Also, Raisin in the Sun is an iconic play and to take part in a musical version of it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Warren: I've been a fan of the play since I read it in Highschool, but the musical I was less familiar with, I head of the production once 20 years ago and so when presented with the opportunity I was excited to be a part of a work with such history that was rarely presented.

Dev: I was drawn to Raisin for its important and timely story, its characters and the love among them, the music, and to have the opportunity to direct a beautiful show which centers about a Black family struggling, striving, and supporting each other.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Chinua: Singing, I like to sing and watching us, the cast, grow into a real family.

Horton: Working with Dev Bondarin.

Joi: I love working in a different time period. The moment we saw the costumes and examined that language that was very unique to the period, it raised all kinds of new awarenesses about what life must have been like for these people in that decade.

Lawrence: I loved the collaborative process with Dev and the rest of the creative team. It felt very communal and that we were all on the same page.

Marcie: Morphing from the character of Mrs. Johnson to Ensemble, never a dull moment.

Brandi: Getting to know my castmates! They were a riot and a lot of laughs were shared.

Gwynn: Watching the other artists create magic with their performances. It was and still is super inspiring. It is so refreshing to work with such talented and humble actors.

Emma: The performances by the actors.

Maia: My favorite part was getting to work with such a wonderful, talented group of people. The cast was predominantly Black, and Raisin is a universally human story in the context of the Black American experience. It was so fun, and beautiful, to discuss our own experiences and family histories and then be able to use those stories to help bring Raisin to life.

Shabazz: Reviving History. In today's social climate and change, it's important to remember what we've come from and what we want to grow toward. We want to grow toward maturity, equality and purpose. Raisin exuded those constant themes, and the chance to produce that purpose through art was a joy.

Tamrin: Judd Woldin's beautiful score combined with stage directions from the original production presented such a wonderful choreographic roadmap. Each number I worked on drew from different dance styles, and I found myself deep in the history of black dance as I found the movement vocabulary for this show.

Tony: The spirit of the company members.

Vanessa: Being in a mostly black cast. It's something that most of us don't get to experience that often.

Warren: I loved being a part of a mostly black cast of Artists. That's rare! And I am so grateful to have been able to present that in Astoria.

Dev: Having the opportunity to delve into this story and to bring it to life with my collaborators. Working with the actors was especially meaningful as we neared opening and were able to delve deeper into the story. Watching their performances evolve over the four week run was amazing.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?

Brandi: My character could easily slip into the background as the housewife, and the way this piece is written, everyone has to be strong in their choices and be interesting. The challenge is being interesting within boundaries of my character and her dialogue.

Horton: It was a very small role, so keeping engaged at the level it required was a challenge.

Vanessa: The choreography. It was more intense than I assumed it would be, but absolutely necessary for the exposition. Each move was very detailed and well thought out.

Chinua: I was the only child....but it was ok

Lawrence: The show has so many locations and yet we spend so much of our time in the Youngers' house. It was the ultimate challenge and goal to create a world that was specific enough to be the tiny apartment of the Youngers while also allowing us to go to all of the other locations and not feel clunky.

Marcie: Traveling to Astoria in the Winter...from Brooklyn!
Tamrin: Commuting to Astoria every day from Brooklyn was the biggest challenge! So many late night delays and shuttle busses... But it was all worth it!

Tony: Working out a schedule with paying work.

Dev: Raisin is a big show! It's Hansberry's play with music and so all of that goes into the rehearsal process--which is a lot on the Showcase contract. As the weeks went on the actors especially rose to the challenge of what the production demanded and their success was visible in the results of a solid production.

Capturing ALL the types of emotions within it. There is such range of emotion from rage, to passion, to love to tenderness. The challenging but still fun part, was making sure to touch each of them and making sure our audiences understood and felt them as well. Because while these characters were fictional, their struggle is felt by everyone and we really wanted to bring those to the surface.

Did you learn anything new from your experience of working on this production?

Warren: I learned to trust myself more. I'd spent a good number of years performing as a cruise ship singer, and this role scared me, but I found my voice and saw that the limits I thought I had, weren't true! I learned some boldness.
Brandi: Everyone was perfectly cast and we really felt like a true family. That's rare and to slap that aspect on to a classic piece is just refreshing. I have learned that I want to work with and for people who make interesting choices. I want to be apart of and strive for the 3 dimensional representations of black characters in theater and especially musical theater, and I feel like I got a chance to do that with Raisin.

Gwynn: I can't tap dance. It's so sad.

Marcie: Many different ways of getting to the theatre when the subway stopped working.
Shabazz: My eyes really opened up to the importance of art. That our work as actors or artists can inspire dialogue and emotions. Tall back sessions with audiences helped me see that our work DOES entertain AND inspire.
Tamrin: Raisin is a show about dreams, about love, about sacrifice and loss. It is a human story that so many are able to directly identify with. And to sit in that audience, in a room full of people on the edge of their seats, was a reminder of the importance of sharing this story, and of creating art, especially now.

 Chinua: Don't let the play overwhelm you emotionally.

What was the most memorable part of this experience for you?

Marcie: Working with a talented group of people: cast, crew and production staff
Tony: The way the ensemble was used to broaden the scope of an intimate family story.

Thomas: The dressing room "held it down!" I had great experiences in the dressing room with such gifted, uplifting, and hilarious group of women.

Gwynn: They are all HI-freakin-LARIOUS.

Chinua: Telling each other jokes and riddles in the dressing.

Brandi: Well, I'm not a mother in real life but it was a joy to have a little boy at my hip! We had our moments and he's such a talent. room

Lawrence: Figuring out the space, every theatre has its quirks and this space was no different. I was lucky that I lived so close to the space, I was able to spend a lot of time in the room finessing things with the oddities of the theatre.

Dev: We had the opportunity to welcome an original member of the Broadway cast to the production as well as family members of the composer and co-librettist. They all had not seen a production of Raisin in many years and so sharing it with them was a wonderful gift.

Shabazz: The best memory was meeting Ernestine Jackson, and originator of the role of Ruth and original production. To meet, speak and hear her interpretation of the Raisin and how it's grown to this production was outstanding.

What did you want the audience to walk away with after watching Raisin?
Dev: That love among a family is strong, that striving against adversity is possible, that racism still exists and that Raisin's story is more of a current event than a piece of history, that Lorraine Hansberry was one of the most important creative minds of our time, that the musical adaptation of her work is wonderful, and that the lives of these characters need to be seen.
What was it like working with this group of artists?
Horton: APAC is a very warm, professional company to work with.

Chinua: They understood me and where I was coming from - the director was an only child, like me, so she helped me make the character come to life.

Joi: This was my first time working with the Astoria Performing Arts Center. I was very moved by their dedication to putting the highest caliber of work on the stage and the way they stay connected with with the community that supports them. IT is a beautifully executed symbiotic relationship.

Lawrence: I was an Astoria resident, so working with a company that is focused on bringing theatre to this neighborhood was amazing.

Marcie: APAC takes chances and I like that

Aaron: APAC's Raisin
had such a strong family bond and made every experience of building the production unforgettable.

Maia: The team at the Astoria Performing Arts Center is committed to excellence and creativity. It was such a gift to be a part of creating such a dynamic theatre experience in what initially seemed liked such an unassuming space. The space went from a gym to a theater, and come showtime, it became a home, a bar, a bus stop, and a church in Chicago. That transformation was amazing.

The best thing about this company is that we truly became a family - not just the characters who play family in the show, but everyone. It was a treat to work with such a talented and loving team of actors and creatives.

The intimate, professional and heartfelt nature of it. Astoria Performing Arts Center was so dedicated to producing a quality project, in an intimate space with truth and love in everything they did. Sometimes that passion for the arts and passion for the story can be missed, but not with APAC. I loved being around such talented and devoted individuals.

Each person involved with this production is filled with a special kind of passion. It became quickly clear in that room, that we were there working together towards a shared vision. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of the APAC family, and to have been able to learn from our music director Darius Smith, and director Dev Bondarin.

Tony: It's like a family.

Vanessa: It was an honor to be a part of the production, and it's an honor to be recognized for the work we put in!

Warren: You truly get the sense that the people involved are passionate about the work! It's a labor of love, and it's infectious! We were all determined to make theatre that mattered!

Dev: All of the nominees from Raisin deserve this recognition (as well as everyone who collaborated on the production---we would not have been nominated for Outstanding Musical without everyone's work!) Everyone gave 110% to bring this story to vivid life and with such authenticity.

Make sure to follow APAC on Twitter @APACNYC


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