Actress has grown up with 'Raisin' Stage: Rebecca Rice, who plays Mama in Olney Theater Center's production of 'A Raisin in the Sun,' has played all three of the female roles.

November 02, 1998|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" is a family drama, and Rebecca Rice, who plays the role of Mama in Olney Theater Center's production, has good reason to feel a member of that family.

Thanks to her current casting, Rice, 51, has now played all three of the play's female roles. She played Mama's daughter, Beneatha, when she was just 13 years old, appearing in a neighborhood production in Chicago, where she grew up. And about 10 years ago, she portrayed Mama's daughter-in-law, Ruth, in a workshop production at the Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, Minn.

"Whole parts of this play I could recite without looking at the script, I know it so well," she says.

Rice feels an even stronger tie."This play ... made me believe I could be in theater, that I could have a life in the theater," she says.

At the same time, she expects it to be her swan song as an actress. "I think that doing 'Raisin in the Sun' really helps you get a picture of what's available for you as a black actress, and the roles for black women are very, very limited, and I feel ... I've played all of them," Rice explains.

"Every time I step on the stage, I've got on a wig and an apron. I very seldom step out there looking like anything I know in my own life and among my friends."

Instead, Rice plans to focus on what she calls "the other part of my life -- the community-based work." That includes being an associate artist at Center Stage, where her play "Everlasting Arms" -- about the relationship between a mother and son in a violence-riddled society -- was produced last season as part of the Theater for a New Generation outreach program.

"I want to step out and support [theater] at another level," says Rice, who is also an associate artist with the Living Stage program at Washington's Arena Stage. "Many women writers, when we write for ourselves, we write with a different image base. I'm trying to get some of that work developed and produced."

Meanwhile, there's just one week left to catch her powerful performance as strong-willed Mama. "A Raisin in the Sun" continues at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road in Olney, through Sunday. Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $15-$32. Call 301-924-3400.

'Family Series'

This year, for the first time, the Baltimore School for the Arts is combining five productions into a "Family Series," which will include public performances, as well as matinees for more than 5,000 Baltimore city school students.

The series begins Friday and Saturday with an Australian production called "Wake Baby." Incorporating puppetry, magic, acrobatics and special effects, "Wake Baby" follows the adventures of a spirit child named Orfe. Created by Company Skylark, the 60-minute piece recently opened in New York, where it was praised by the New York Times as "Wordless but eloquent one of those collaborative efforts that hides much of its expertise in the darkness concealing its puppeteers while it lights the faces of youngsters with awe and laughter." Show times at the school at 712 Cathedral St., are 7 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.

The rest of the series includes: the school's annual "Nutcracker" (Dec. 4-6, 11-13); "Story and Song," a holiday performance beginning with "A Child's Christmas in Wales," followed by instrumental and vocal ensembles performing seasonal music (Nov. 20, Dec. 18, 19, 22); "Expressions," a family performance from the school's gala (March 7); and "Spring Fever," an anthology showcasing the departments of dance, music and theater (April 22-May 2).

Tickets to each event are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for children, and may be purchased for individual performances, or for any combination, including the complete series. All revenues support the school's production and exhibition programs. Call 410-783- 5420.

Modern 'Dr. Faustus'

The production of Christopher Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus" that opens in Fairfax, Va., on Wednesday has several Baltimore connections. Produced by the Theater of the First Amendment, the professional theater in residence at George Mason University, the play is directed by Rick Davis, the theater's artistic director and the former associate artistic director of Center Stage. Its cast, headed by Edward Gero, a frequent lead actor at Washington's Shakespeare Theatre, also includes actor Timmy Ray James, a company member of Everyman Theatre.

The updated production will use Marlowe's original text, enhanced by modern technology to demonstrate how Faustus' vTC fate would be covered on the Internet and by CNN. The multimedia effects, co-designed by Baltimorean Kirby Malone, artistic director of Desire Productions, use two video projectors and 18 slide projectors to project images on the theater's four walls. The George Mason campus is at 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, Va. Show times are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Nov. 22. Tickets are $25. Call 703-993-8888.

Pub Date: 11/02/98

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