‘Raisin’g awareness through cultural play

Erica Farley

February is a month during which awareness is raised about the African-American culture and the contributions that African-Americans have made to this nation. With Black History Month, many events are designed to spotlight innovative and inspirational African-Americans. One such spotlight event is “Raisin Cane,” the story of the intellectual, artistic and literary enlightenments brought about by the Harlem Renaissance. “Raisin Cane” covers the works of many prominent African American figures, such as Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen and Zora Neale Hurston, whose work came to life during this time.

“What I love about the piece is that it puts it in a political and historical context,” said actress Jasmine Guy, who will be performing “Raisin Cane” in Alumni Hall on Feb. 14.

One of the main themes that that the show mentions is that the figures of the Harlem Renaissance “just wanted to be men and artists.” The writers and poets of this time wanted to be seen for their work and not for the color of their skin. They also wanted to dismiss the idea that they were just writing for the African-American population. Many inspirational artists, especially poet Claude McKay, wanted their work to be appreciated by all and for all, and not let blinders such as race or predetermined audiences hold them back.

Jasmine Guy has acted in several television shows including “A Different World” and “Dead Like Me.” She also had an album out in the early 90s and has done musical theater. Although Guy will not be singing as much in “Raisin Cane,” it is a very musically driven show and features original jazz compositions by Avery Sharpe, who has been a friend of Guy’s for more than 20 years. She was approached by Sharpe to perform “Raisin Cane” while filming episodes of the Showtime cult-classic “Dead Like Me” in which she co-starred with Ellen Muth and Mandy Patinkin. After getting a feel for “Raisin Cane” and realizing how powerful and passionate the show was, Guy knew she had to be a part of it. She says that theater is different than television in that it’s “interactive, and even if the audience isn’t saying anything, you know they’re there. It’s more organic.”

“Raisin Cane” is a powerful show about an incredibly passionate and revolutionary time in America’s history.

“I think emotionally it effects people on a very basic, human level, but I think it’s fun to understand that all these people hung out together and had all this creative energy flowing,” Guy said. She hopes that audiences will enjoy the show, but offers the advice to be “open” and try to “absorb as much as you can.”