Skip to main content

UW-Madison hosts 2012 Lorraine Hansberry Symposium

February 27, 2012 By Susannah Brooks

Founded in 2000, the UW–Madison’s Lorraine Hansberry Project honors the life and pioneering work of a UW–Madison alumna who made lasting contributions to American arts and culture.

As part of the 2012 Lorraine Hansberry Project, a free symposium will take place on Saturday, March 3, in Vilas Hall’s Mitchell Theatre. The symposium, “Conversations on African-American Youth and August Wilson’s ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’” is presented in conjunction with the Hansberry Project’s production of Wilson’s play. The event begins at 10:45 a.m. and continues until 5:30 p.m.; the day’s agenda is available online at

Theatre for Cultural and Social Awareness (TCSA) is co-presenting the symposium with the departments of theatre and drama and Afro-American Studies.           

A student at UW–Madison from 1948 to 1950, Hansberry became the first African-American writer to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for her groundbreaking 1959 drama “A Raisin in the Sun.” Her work explores the momentous shifts that brought America from the complacent 1950s into the more turbulent 1960s.

This year’s symposium aims to provide a heartfelt discussion surrounding issues that affect young people of color – particularly young men – as they relate to matters of education, faith, self-esteem and transitions into adulthood. A second goal is to provide frank and candid discussion about the legacy of August Wilson and the state of black theater.

“Although Wilson’s play is set in the 1920s, the issues that he puts on the table (black-on-black violence, generational divides, misguided ambition and a lack of communal responsibility) are all relevant today,” says director Patrick Sims, associate professor of theatre and drama and head of TCSA.

Highlights of the symposium include remarks by Damon Williams, vice provost for diversity and climate at UW–Madison, and a keynote address by Anthony Duane Hill, an August Wilson scholar and professor at Ohio State University. In addition, several panel discussions throughout the day will feature members of Madison’s African-American community. 

Vilas Hall, home of the Mitchell Theatre, is located at 821 University Ave. Tickets are available for University Theatre’s production of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” for that evening’s performance or other performances, which play in the Mitchell Theatre from Friday, March 2, through Saturday, March 17.

For more information about the production and to see a complete schedule, contact Campus Arts Ticketing at 608-265-2787 or visit