Deadline looms for Lorraine Hansberry Kickstarter project, “Sun” wins Tonys

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A Kickstarter project aimed at funding a documentary about the life of Lorraine Hansberry is close to reaching its funding target but needs additional support to push it over the finish line.

By Carmen Glover

On June 20, the campaign to raise $100,000 for the Lorraine Hansberry documentary via a Kickstarter campaign comes to an end. While the filmmakers are pleased to have raised 80 percent of the funds needed, they are concerned that unless they raise the remaining 20 percent before June 20, their dreams of bringing Hansberry’s life story to the big screen will be dashed.

Kenny Leon jumps for joy when he won for Best Director in the current revival of a play for "A Raisin in the Sun" at the Tony Awards on Sunday.

Kenny Leon jumps for joy when he won for Best Director in the current revival of a play for “A Raisin in the Sun” at the Tony Awards on Sunday. He acknowledged Denzel Washington’s performance in the play and promoted his new play “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” now in previews.

In 1959, Hansberry infused new life on Broadway when her iconic play, “A Raisin in the Sun,” debuted with Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier in the lead role. Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington in currently starring in a revival of the play at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it debuted decades ago.

Sophie Okenodo proudly holds the Tony Award she won Sunday for Featured Actress in a Play for her role in "A Raisin in the Sun."

Sophie Okonedo proudly holds the Tony Award she won Sunday for Featured Actress in a Play for her role in “A Raisin in the Sun,” which is currently playing on Broadway. A Kickstarter project to bring Lorraine Hansberry’s life to the big screen is still short of its funding target.

The revival won three Tony Awards last night, for Best Revival of a Play, Best Director of a Play, going to Kenny Leon and Featured Actress, going to Sophie Okonedo. Celebrating Hansberry during her acceptance speech, Okonedo said: “Your words heal me eight shows a week.”

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Lorraine Hansberry documentary filmmakers from left to right Jamila Wignot, Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry.

Help push the industrious filmmakers over the finish line by contributing to the project and publicizing the campaign, which has garnered support from Poitier and legendary entertainer Harry Belafonte. To contact the filmmakers and join the effort to fund the project call toll-free at(855)-TFP-FILM, twitter.com/hansberrydoc and facebook.com/hansberrydocumentary. -OnPointpress.net.

Half-way mark for Lorraine Hansberry kickstarter project

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(l-r) Lorraine Hansberry documentary filmmakers Jamila Wignot, Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry have reached the half-way mark but need a strong momentum of support to reach their target of $100,000 by June 20.

By Carmen Glover

A diligent team of filmmakers in Boston have hit the half-way mark in raising funds via kickstarter for a documentary on the life of late playwright Lorraine Hansberry, as the revival of Hansberry’s iconic play “A Raisin in the Sun” continues to enjoy critical acclaim on Broadway with Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington starring in the lead role alongside LaTanya Richardson and a strong ensemble cast.

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Lorraine Hansberry inspired a legion of playwrights with her iconic play “A Raisin in the Sun” and would have celebrated her 84th birthday on May 19.

In  statement  describing the filmmakers’ journey to the half-way mark and the push to reach the goal of $100, 000 by June 20, Tracy Heather Strain, who is one of the filmmakers said:

“We have officially crossed the $53,000 mark, and we so grateful for the support we have received. But we are just over halfway to receiving ANY money already pledged. We NEED to reach $100,000 to receive anything. And in order to finish this film next year, we need our Kickstarter to be successful.

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Filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain poses with Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier, who played the lead in the original version of “A Raisin in the Sun” and is a participant in the documentary being done on her life.

“Our deadline for raising the total amount is June 20th at 8:57 PM Eastern Time. This means we have less than 18 more days to go, but everyone who wants to see Lorraine’s story on the screen shouldn’t wait to donate. Please donate today. And any amount helps, that is possibly the most important thing to share, whether it is $5 or $5,000, it ALL helps get us to our goal.

Lorraine-Hansberry

Hansberry was credited for reviving Broadway when “A Raisin in the Sun” debuted in 1959. Her work has been taught in schools for years and across the country, groups have trekked to Broadway to see various revivals of the important play. Still, there are many unexplored layers to Hansberry’s life which the filmmakers intend to delve into with their thorough documentary.

“Want to be inspired? Take a look at the video clips from our interviews with Lloyd Richards and Harry Belafonte on how and why A Raisin in the Sun was funded through the contributions of many supporters. You can be a part of making this documentary about Lorraine Hansberry happen. Thanks.”

To help the project become a reality by donating and joining legendary entertainers such as Harry Belafonte: http://vimeo.com/96987507, Lloyd Richards: http://vimeo.com/94858093 and Sidney Poitier in supporting the effort, there are simple, easy, steps to take. To support the Kickstarter campaign, contact the filmmakers toll-free at (855)-TFP-FILM, twitter.com/hansberrydoc and facebook.com/hansberrydocumentary. -OnPointpress.net.

Lorraine Hansberry documentary inspires Kickstarter project

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Boston, MA: On Monday, May 19, 2014, noted playwright Lorraine Hansberry, who died at the age of 34 in 1965, would have celebrated her 84th birthday. In celebration of her artistic impact, producers of a documentary-in-progress about Hansberry’s life have launched a Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter campaign is designed to help raise money to finish the documentary by next year in time to honor the 50th anniversary of the death of the woman best known for writing the play, A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry’s fans are invited to support the documentary project as a special gift in her honor.

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(l-r) Documentary producers Jamila Wignot, Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry are working diligently to reach their financial target to make the documentary a reality.

Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is arguably the most famous black play ever to hit the stage in the United States. This groundbreaking work of art is taught in high schools and colleges across the country. It is continually in rehearsal or production on stages of all sizes across the world. Today, audiences are again flocking to the Barrymore Theater in New York City to see the Tony-nominated revival starring Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington in the lead role. Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier and the original cast first brought down the house in 1959, when the play opened in the same theater.

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Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier poses with Tracy Heather Strain, co-producer of  the documentary about Lorraine Hansberry, which is being funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

“What shone through in the play was Hansberry’s artistic and political honesty,” wrote Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in a recent blog post on The Root. What has gotten lost over time, though, is the full character of the play’s author. Often reduced to being a one-hit wonder who died young from cancer, Hansberry was much more than A Raisin in the Sun. Far from the bright lights of Broadway, a small team in Boston’s Fort Point Channel neighborhood has been working to change that limited perspective of the outstanding writer.

Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in the original rendition of 'A Raisin in the Sun.'

Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in the original rendition of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry, who operate as The Film Posse, are producing the documentary about the life, art and times of Hansberry. Nearly a decade in the works, the film will uncover Hansberry’s complex and compelling life. Often positioned as an integrationist when A Raisin in the Sun debuted on Broadway, her message was much more revolutionary and radical. Her great friend James Baldwin wrote, “Lorraine made no bones about asserting that art has a purpose, and that its purpose was action.”

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Denzel Washington and LaTanya Richardson lead an impressive cast in the current revival of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

Strain and MacLowry are making the film with a diverse group of professionals who live in various locales. New York-based executive producer Chiz Schultz, a veteran producer of feature films, documentaries and children’s television, lives in Nyack. Jamila Wignot, a two-time Peabody award-winning Brooklyn-based filmmaker joined the the team officially last year to co-direct and produce. Harlem-based Kim Miille, an editor whose credits include The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross has signed on. And so has acclaimed clarinetist and composer Don Byron to write the musical score.

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Loorraine Hansberry’s treasure trove of literary works.

Hansberry demanded a public voice at a time when women were meant to be content to support the aspirations of their husbands. One of the headlines about her success read, “Housewife’s Play Is A Hit.” That was just one of the boxes she was put in. When challenged, however, she didn’t back down, tangling with the likes of Mike Wallace, David Susskind, Norman Mailer and Robert Kennedy.

“Her interests were wide and deep, and she was interested in all people,” remarked Heather Strain. “Yes, she fought for African-American civil rights most of her life, but she also was committed to fostering a fair and just global society. Her weapon of choice was her words, and she explored a multitude of issues in her writing that we are still wrestling with today.”

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The current revival of the iconic play runs through June 15.

Though documentaries have increased in popularity, bringing Hansberry’s story to the screen remains challenging. Compared to personal or contemporary vérité documentaries, historical documentaries are expensive. One issue is the cost of licensing archival material used to craft a story of this nature.

“We estimate our rights cost to be $300,000,” says producer MacLowry. “After we locate materials we’d like to include in the documentary, we have to pay for almost everything that ends up on the screen. This includes photos, archival footage, movie clips, newspaper headlines and personal papers, as well as period music and literary rights.”

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Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington has garnered acclaim for his lead role in the current revival of the play.

In 2005 when the rights began to expire for Eyes on the Prize, the landmark series about the civil rights movement, the challenge of rights costs became public. Almost a million dollars needed to be raised to re-license the archival material and music.

The filmmakers have made great progress in realizing their goals. They have shot 19 interviews, including Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Louis Gossett, Jr., and Glynn Turman as well as Lorraine’s sister and cousin, among others. Recently, the project received a highly competitive production grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise some of additional funds they need to reach their production budget. For Strain, it is worth the effort.

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Lorraine Hansberry, who blazed a scorching trail in the literary and entertainment worlds, would have celebrated her 84th birthday on 5/19. Her life story is being told in a documentary which is funded via a Kickstarter campaign.

“The campaign also allows us to make connections with all sorts of people who are interested in Lorraine Hansberry, which is extremely motivating,” she said. “I also strongly feel that understanding the past is key to solving issues that face us today. In this media-rich environment, we must continue to make films that examine the past, no matter if the path to do so is challenging.”

To support the Kickstarter campaign, contact the filmmakers toll-free at (855)-TFP-FILM, twitter.com/hansberrydoc and facebook.com/hansberrydocumentary. –OnPointpress.net.

Denzel Washington returns to Broadway in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’

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Multiple Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington returns to Broadway in ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ The play is currently in previews and will open officially on April 3.

By Carmen Glover

Listening to morning radio is usually informative, sometimes entertaining and often funny but while driving to work on Tuesday, it was all of the above. Multiple Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington called into The Steve Harvey Morning Show to discuss his role in the revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic play, ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

Immediately as his rich baritone filled the airwaves, Shirley Strawberry and Carla Ferrell, who co-host the show with Harvey, began to giggle like irrepressible school girls. “Oh, It’s Denzel,” they gushed, unable to contain their excitement. After exchanging pleasantries, Harvey got straight to the point: “What made you decide to return to Broadway?” he asked. Washington was quick with his reply:

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Denzel Washington reprises the lead role of Walter Lee Younger, played originally by Sidney Poitier,  in ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

“I started in the theatre when I attended Fordham University,” he said. “I love the energy of the theatre. People in the audience react to every scene, whereas in a movie you film the scene and then it airs. In the theatre it is immediate.”

Washington explained that performing on Broadway is a great feeling for him and he feels especially blessed to be reprising a role first depicted by Poitier, who is his neighbor in Los Angeles.

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Denzel Washington said that he loves performing in the theatre because it helps him connect with fans.

“I met with him and I took my son, John David, who is an actor in his own right, let me do a plug for my son,” he said to laughter. “Yes, I met with him and he is such a generous man,” he said of his visit with Poitier. He expressed being impressed and pleased to meet with Poitier and also feeling grateful that the acting legend took the time to meet with him and John David.

In response to Strawberry’s question: “What has been your favorite role of all the roles you played?” Washington replied with sure-fire speed: “My next one. It’s difficult to choose one particular role , so I just prepare for the next one.” When Thomas Miles, fondly called Nephew Tommy, asked: “Which do you prefer film, television or theatre?” Washington responded: “I don’t have to choose. I do it all.”

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Denzel Washington joins LaTanya Richardson (black dress; wife of Samuel Jackson) and the other cast members of “A Raisin in the Sun.,” including Anika Noni Rose (in pink) and Sophie Okonedo.

Washington describes the play as the story of a Chicago family who “came into $10,000, which was a lot of money in 1959. I play the son who drives a limousine and we all have plans for the money. The play tells what happens to the family,” he said. Harvey asked him if there is any role that he would like to play in the future. The question elicited an interesting response from Washington.

“Well, the only thing I would like to do is a comedy tour with you because I haven’t done that yet. We should do something like that,” Washington said, sounding rather serious. Harvey was quick to respond. “I would come out of retirement to do that with you, my man. Oh, yes.”

Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in the original rendition of 'A Raisin in the Sun.'

Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in the original rendition of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ is currently in previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, which is the location where it premiered in 1959 when Poitier played the lead role. Bronx-born actress Diahann Carroll was initially slated to star in the production with Washington but she pulled out and was replaced with Richardson.  A revival of the play took place in 2004 with Phylicia Rashad and Sean Combs in the lead. The play opens officially on April 3 and runs through June 15.–OnPointPress.net.

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Legendary Singer/Activist Harry Belafonte promotes Sankofa

Singer/Activist Harry Belafonte.

Singer/Activist Harry Belafonte.

By Carmen Glover

Legendary singer and activist Harry Belafonte, whose passion for activism seems unwavering, sat comfortably perched on a chair in the MSNBC studio recently, talking eloquently about his life, philosophy and motivation for his new organization, Sankofa. Belafonte, whose career has spanned decades as a folk singer, humanitarian and civil rights activist, is now focusing his attention on social justice issues.

Inspired by the overarching goal of ending violence and oppression across the globe, Belafonte founded the Sankofa Justice and Equity Project. Sankofa is a non-profit organization that aims to harness the strength of popular culture, celebrity power and collaboration to energize a new generation towards effective activism. Sankofa, according to its social media page, “supports and encourages a new generation of artists to speak to the layered injustices that face marginalized communities.”  The organization has its genesis in a compelling speech Belafonte delivered a year ago at the NAACP Image Award function.

Harry Belafonte during his entertainment days.

Harry Belafonte during his heyday when he brought Jamaican folk songs to the consciousness of his international fan base.

“In that speech I spoke to my fellow artists about the act of social responsibility and I challenged my colleagues to step up to the plate and become more engaged in deeper social issues,” he said of his motivation to start the organization. “Several artists on the spot, led by Jamie Foxx, stepped up to the plate,” Belafonte explained. “The very next day, Jamie Foxx, without any formality, got on a plane and flew to New York and participated in Union Square in a rally putting light on the issue of what happened to Trayvon Martin.”

Martin was the unarmed teenager who was murdered by an unrepentant George Zimmerman in Florida. Zimmerman was found not guilty at trial.

Jamie Foxx responded immediately to Belafonte's call and encouraged others to do the same.

Jamie Foxx responded immediately to Belafonte’s call and encouraged others to do the same.

Belafonte said that Foxx’s immediate response had enormous implications. “His presence caught press attention and brought huge resources to the table. He also reached out and influenced other people like Chuck D and Common. We had a huge meeting here in New York and about 60 of the leading artists in rap culture showed up and said : What can we do?'”

Belafonte explained that “artists have a platform. They have a power. They have a gift and by using that gift in the service of others who are being drowned out by inequity and systems that are unjust, we begin to put a light and a new dynamic into what is going on with the poor, racially oppressed, sexually abused and by doing that we have heightened the consciousness of people who are distracted from taking a deeper look at what goes on in social issues.”

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Chuck D, seen here on the Arsenio Hall Show, joined other rappers in responding to Harry Belafonte’s call to activism.

But Belafonte made it clear that his appreciation for the impact of artists is born out of his experiences from the past, particularly joining with icons such as Sidney Poitier, Paul Robeson, Mahalia Jackson, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Bob Dylan and other artists who were unafraid to take active roles in the civil rights movement to achieve positive social change.

“Paul Robeson once said artists are the gatekeepers of truth,” Belafonte said, emphasizing the importance of artists taking active roles in moving a social agenda to help others. As he reflected on the overall aim for Sankofa and the outpouring of support that the movement has received so far from the rap community, he disclosed that a specific focus has been identified as the first course of action.

Conscious rapper Common has been involved in the Sankofa initiative.

Conscious rapper Common has been involved in the Sankofa initiative.

“We decided that our first major attempt at using this power is around the issue of women and the role men play in women’s issues,” he said, while explaining that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is committed to the issue as well. “Mayor de Blasio is involved and the first warm day of summer there will be a gathering in Central Park to talk about issues affecting women.”

The focus of Sankofa is laudable and the scope of the organization seems to be broad and altruistic. As more information is shared with the public about the organization’s initiatives, it is hoped that support will grow and more groups will partner with Belafonte and the artists who have already committed to Sanfoka’s goals so that deserving communities can reap the rewards of this new wave of activism.  -OnPointPress.net.

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