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Sidney Poitier

Sovereign State

He and his wife visited Salisbury looking to buy a house. Could you have had a cooler experience than seeing him at the yogurt counter?

My dear likker lady who professes to love him said he always played parts which did not demean him. He would never play a thief, she said. I can’t think if she’s right.

This all comes to mind because, at the behest of my extraordinary middle daughter, she and I went to the Sharon Playhouse to see their production of “A Raisin in the Sun”.

I have seen the play many times, but of course nothing will obliterate the great Sidney Poitier as Walter Lee Younger. I did not see him on stage, I was a tad too young, but I have seen the film many times and taught it many more.

The Sharon production was excellent. Well cast and directed.

And what a thrill to see so many Blacks on our stage, which was imaginatively moved so that we were all sitting on it!

Lorraine Hansberry, who became hugely famous with “Raisin”, was asked to opine on the state of Blacks, or perhaps Negroes, in America.

She said, and of course I paraphrase, “I’m not so much writing about Negroes, but about a particular Black family in a particular flat on Chicago’s South Side.

I make no general statement.”

She died of cancer at 34.

I am friends with the Chair of Writers’ Theater in Glencoe Illinois, right up the road from the now infamous Highland Park.

When Writers does a Black play, East Texas Hotlinks by Eugene Lee, comes to mind, the company leaders take the company to the police department to introduce them so the coppers know these are not robbers or worse and should not be stopped for a frisk. Or worse. These are artists. And they will regale you.

Can you believe this has to happen?

Again, as I have written, this is the North Shore of Chicago.

We’ll get you half price! Says the theater.

I guess that surveillance did not have to happen in Sharon, God willing.

The Johnny Carson show comes to mind. Forty years ago he had Poitier and Harry Belafonte on for their 50th birthdays.

Both Island lads and now a half a Century.

Carson asked Belafonte, what is it like. Belafonte talked. And talked. Carson, who had had a time with W. H. Auden — who are these artists? -—Auden said, “The greatest evils of the 20th Century are the internal combustion engine and THE CAMera,” Carson went to a break — did not know how to quiet Belafonte. Finally, he quieted himself.

Carson turned to Poitier and said, Sidney, what is it like for you to be 50?

Poitier got up from his chair, went right to the camera, did a perfect pirouette and returned to his seat, having uttered not a sound.

O, Sidney, right here in the Northwest Corner, we would have counseled each other on the yogurt.

 

Lonnie Carter is a playwright, Obie winner and his signature play is “The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy.”

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