By Brian Robin
What is the American Icon Series?
The idea came to SCR Artistic Director David Ivers when he selected Million Dollar Quartet as Outside SCR’s 2022 production at Mission San Juan Capistrano. In this case, it came to him four times, under four different names. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Four musical icons. Four American icons.
As the 2022-23 SCR season began with Nina Simone, Four Women, the wheels in Ivers’ head kept turning. Simone was a music and civil rights legend. And Ivers realized there’s a there there, a common thread that lends itself to more than singular plays. A common thread that ties people of significance to the stories told on SCR stages.
And thus, the American Icon series was born. It begins this season with A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece that runs Oct. 22-Nov. 12 on the Julianne Argyros Stage.
Ivers describes the American Icon series as stories “about living or deceased people who contributed something of power or impact to our country.” As the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway, and as one of the most powerful voices of her era, Hansberry fits the description of an American Icon.
Coincidentally, she was a good friend of Simone, who wrote and dedicated her memorable song, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” as a tribute to Hansberry.
“You know how there’s required reading? There should be required seeing,” Ivers said. “Frankly, I feel that way about the visionaries of our country and I believe Lorraine Hansberry is one of them.”
Ivers said the American Icon series neatly fits his personal mandate of programming plays that take us forward—as they take our minds and eyes back to where we’ve been. The past speaking to the future, charting a path to understanding how figures in various pockets of American history impacted that path.
“I think we always have to be mindful of what we came from in order to navigate how we move forward,” Ivers said. “It’s a further extension of the programming that we were doing under my leadership and I’m really interested in exploring this with our audiences. I want to offer it as something they can count on.”