The American Dream: A few words from Resident Artist Deborah Strang
By A Noise Within
May 24, 2016
Deborah Strang, ANW Resident Artist most recently seen as Mrs Clandon in this spring’s You Never Can Tell, shares some insight into our inaugural Resident Artist Reading Festival and tells us about its genesis, what you can expect, and what she’s most excited for this July!
So what exactly is the Resident Artist Reading Festival?
The Resident Artists (RAs) wanted to do something special to kick off our 25th Anniversary Season. But mostly it will be a chance to see all my friends this summer, both from the company and from our loyal patrons. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine when the season ends that we won’t see one another very often until September. Now we will.
Our regular Words Within Reading Series has become such a beloved part of what RAs do at ANW, we hoped a festival would build on that dialogue between the words, the actors, and the patrons by funneling that energy across a weekend! The festival is also a fantastic springboard for our new Artist Freedom Fund.
What is the Artist Freedom Fund?
Our company of RAs is one of the central tenets of A Noise Within. The Artist Freedom Fund will support our popular reading series – and will enable RAs to apply for funds to pursue an individual creative endeavor, like adapting a play (like our own Robertson Dean did with Antigone or Stephen Rockwell with An Enemy of the People*), creating a one-person performance piece, funding a workshop for movement, speech, or text to aid in our growth as a company and as artists.
Why did you choose the plays?
We started by just creating a list of plays that interested us. Then as we looked at what we created, a theme begin to emerge: The American Dream. We feel that the plays that made the final line up are the perfect plays, not just for ANW but for the times in which we live – and they all address our search for the American Dream.
Which play are you most looking forward to and why?
A Raisin in the Sun. It’s such a powerful piece. Here’s what my friend, and fellow RA, Apollo Dukakis, wrote to me about this magnificent play:
“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” That quote from a poem by Langston Hughes was the inspiration to Lorraine Hansberry for the title of this 1959 ground-breaking drama. It ranks right up there with the great American family dramas like The Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman, A Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Ah, Wilderness!
I feel it is a great honor for ANW to present to our audiences a reading of this play, which made history as the first to be produced by a black woman on Broadway. Though Hansberry passed away at a tragically young age, she was a spiritual godmother to Leroy Jones, James Baldwin, August Wilson, Susan Lori-Parks, and many other contemporary black writers.
Our reading will be directed by African American actress/director Saundra McClain. It’s place in theatrical history is assured not only for the above reasons but for the great power of its story, the authentic and humorous depiction of its characters, and the tremendous love, humanity, and universality with which Lorraine Hansberry infuses her play. Don’t miss this one!
What can audiences expect? What makes it different from a normal Words Within reading?
The Festival will be bigger, better, more to see, more to talk about, the building a-buzz upstairs and down, food, drink , talk, talk, talk – having a dialogue between Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner, Tennessee Williams, Christopher Durang, and Lorraine Hansberry. Now that’s a party I want to be part of!