March 17, 2015- A Raisin in the Sun Recap: Playing Ruth Younger.
Playing Ruth Younger.
Was it a challenge? Yes, of course it was! People sometimes think that just because I have been performing for so long that it comes easy to me. Well, here’s a bit of info: I never make anything easy for myself. I like to dig deep into the characters that I play. It is one thing to “look” like the character, but to feel and think like them takes time. Moving like them…even sitting and laughing like them. Finding all of the nuisances that make them human is the BEST PART.
Years ago when I was attached to Raisin, I was typically cast as Beneatha. So, naturally Ruth called for a maturity and groundedness that I haven’t been able to portray as an actress yet. Exploring what a “maternal” instinct is. Emulating a pregnancy through the entirety of a play not actually “knowing” what it is like to "be" pregnant was so much fun! It made Ruth come alive in me. One of the things I am most appreciative of is the fact that our director Marlon Hargrave and producer Erica Pugh made it a necessity to bring real working elements to the stage. Elements meaning an actual working stove and appliances. DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO COOK LIVE IN FRONT OF OVER A THOUSAND PEOPLE!? I was so adamant not to burn those damn eggs! LOL I am so serious, but it really helped me develop my skills as a performer: staying in the moment yet maintaining a sense of safety on stage. Working with an ensemble cast of about 10 people was surprisingly peaceful. Of course, we all had our stints of frustrations; however, because we started the rehearsal process back in October, we were able to build a rapport and developed a natural chemistry amongst each other that read so well on stage. I was telling some of the people who came to see the show: “whenever you saw and heard laughter on stage, it was completely genuine. Very authentic because we enjoyed working together.”
Channeling Ruth was quite enjoyable, I must say. Her strength wasn't as much of a challenge as discovering “her” levels of vulnerability. Often Ruth is played somewhat submissive to her husband and acts as a mediator between everyone in the house to maintain peace. However, Ruth is a dreamer herself. She is hungry for life beyond what she has. Like the title infers, she is also a raisin dried up. Her dreams of a life living independently with Walter Lee and traveling the world were “deferred” as well. Ruth’s vulnerability is her love for peace and order. She even contemplates sacrificing her new baby just so that her family can have peace in their home. When portraying Ruth, I wanted to make sure that her love for Walter was always known. She loves and respects her husband.
Even though his “ideas” and “investments” has placed them in unlikely predicaments, she still loves this man and most women playing her [Ruth] forget about the love. Submitting and supporting are very dissimilar traits. I also enjoyed finding the balances of anger and sadness. Not only was she upset with Walter Lee…she was disappointed in his actions. Those are two VERY different emotions and I was able to explore my range with Ruth. I even found MY TEARS! (laughs)…. Lorraine Hansberry was BRILLIANT, people! Brilliant!
Look out for Part III!