In this 4-part feature, PerformInk’s INSIDE series takes you into the world of Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past INSIDE articles click here.
Part One: Conversation with Co-Directors Chip Miller and Marissa Wolf
Marissa Wolf: I know you read and saw Raisin when you were a teenager (at KC Rep!). What resonates in the play for you now as a young professional director?
Chip Miller: Coming to the play now, especially in this moment in time, and with a grander understanding of who Hansberry was, I’m really tuning into the politics of it. The politics in the way race, gender, and class are intersecting and exploding in the world of this play. I love exploring this group of people with relatively similar backgrounds, but who have very different ideas about how to respond to their world.
MW: And what does that world of Hansberry’s 1950s Chicago in a Black neighborhood mean to you as a young black man? What is it that makes the play relevant now?
CM: I think it’s the feeling of being at a moment where a great change is about to occur. Knowing that Hansberry feels the major push of civil rights movement coming. She knows that the conflict has to lead to something. And I feel like we’re at a moment in time when the unrest and the agitation that we feel has to lead to something. Who knows what that will be? My question for you Marissa is, what is the scariest part of doing this play?
MW: I would say there are a few things that scare me about this play. One is working with a master like Hansberry who is a 20th-century giant and change-maker. Trying to honor her voice and to give life and breath to our production here in Kansas City. It’s almost like approaching Hamlet really. It’s a play that is beloved and well known, but I think that’s why it needs to be re-investigated for every new generation. We’re very lucky to have an incredible new education expansion of our student matinee series, adding an extra week of daily matinees to our run which will allow over 4,000 students to experience this play. The other thing that scares me about doing this play is, as a white lady, needing to be very deliberate about shutting up and listening. I’m thinking about my own subject position and the way that I move through the world; how I can support Hansberry’s voice and support you as a co-director throughout this process, without thinking that I have all the answers.
CM: But I think that’s why it’s exciting to work on this play together. Because you bring so much perspective to it that I don’t have. I think the element of motherhood that courses through the play is something that you have a much greater access to than me. But I have a greater access to being a son. And I think our differing perspectives will make the play stronger!
MARISSA WOLF (Director of New Works Associate Artist) KC Rep: The Diary of Anne Frank. Regional: Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco Playhouse, Shotgun Players, Cutting Ball Theatre, The Magic Theatre, and Berkeley Playhouse. Ms. Wolf previously served as the Artistic Director of Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco for six seasons, where she developed and produced work by a vanguard of top emerging playwrights including Christina Anderson (Kansas City born and raised playwright), Lauren Gunderson, Young Jean Lee, Christopher Chen, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Caridad Svich, Thomas Bradshaw, and Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig. In her first year as Director of New Works/Associate Artist at Kansas City Rep, Ms. Wolf has launched OriginKC, a program that supports the creation, development, and production of new work from a diverse body of major national playwrights. Awards: Best Director (nomination, Broadway World San Francisco); the Bay Area Critics Circle Award; the Bret C. Harte Directing Internship at Berkeley Repertory Theatre for two years. Education: BA, Vassar College, additional training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Upcoming: Ms. Wolf will co-direct A Raisin in the Sun with Chip Miller in the 2016-2017 season, as well as the world premiere of Man in Love by Christina Anderson in the 2017 OriginKC: New Works Festival.
CHIP MILLER (Assistant Director) KC Rep: Assistant Artistic Director. Acting: The Fantasticks. Directing: 4:48 Psychosis (The Buffalo Room); David George’s Christmas Ain’t A Drag (The Madrid). Assistant Directing: Evita, Roof of the World, Sunday in the Park with George, Stillwater, Hair, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Romeo & Juliet, The Tallest Tree in the Forest, American Buffalo, Waiting for You (on the Corner of 13th and Walnut), Death of a Salesman (KC Rep); Justice in the Embers (The Living Room); 600 Highwaymen’s Empire City (University Settlement); Reporting Live (NYMF 2012); Venice (Public Theatre); Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Baltimore Centerstage). Education: BFA: New York University.