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Lorraine Hansberry Theater: Bringing Art to San Francisco

By Elisha Neubauer

The Lorraine Hansberry Theater is the premier African-American and multicultural theater in the San Francisco area. Founded in 1981, the theater's mission was, simply put, to promote the performing arts. This mission has since expanded, featuring and promoting African-American and multicultural playwrights and themes. The Lorraine Hansberry Theater, or LHT, has long-since garnered a reputation for bringing groundbreaking multicultural and eclectic works onto the San Francisco stage and into the lives of the surrounding communities.

Over the last three decades, the LHT has managed to host over 130 plays. Among these plays, the theatre has brought to life several world premieres and experimental works. LHT's productions range from Pulitzer prize winning plays by playwrights like Alice Walker and Charles Fuller to plays by pioneering first-timers, giving everyone a chance to break new ground. When asked what he loves about the LHT, Artistic Director Steven Jones says simply, "I love the theater and I love making theater art - and getting it to our audiences."

One mostly-free program aims to bring the arts directly to the people. Aptly entitled BATA: Bringing the Arts to The Audience, the series brings staged readings to community places. Over the last two seasons, BATA readings have occurred in such locations as the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), the African American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC), The East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, The Oakland School for the Arts, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Oakland's Eastside Arts Alliance and the Joyce Gordon Gallery. "I wanted to reach out to our core audience constituency and give them more of an insider's view of the shows we are considering, so we go to their communities and offer the readings for free and solicit their feedback," explains Jones. "Also I wanted to develop a community of creative partners with an eye towards future collaboration. On both counts the reception of those ideas has been great."

This summer, the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre presents Thurgood by George Stevens Jr.- a one-man play about the lawyer and Supreme Court justice who argued for desegregation of schools in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Jones, who will be playing Thurgood Marshall himself, says, "I think "Thurgood" is a very important work about a great man. The events that are occurring in our society almost day to day that involve Civil Rights, Gay rights, Race, and Social Justice are all things whose solutions began with the work he did." The play will run in the Creativity Theatre at 221 Fourth St from July 9th-25th.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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