Named for playwright, director, and activist Lorraine Hansberry, our theatre is San Francisco’s premier African American theatre and was launched in 1981.
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Theatre
Our namesake, Lorraine Hansberry wrote the landmark play A Raisin in the Sun, which opened on Broadway to enormous success. With A Raisin in the Sun’s debut, Hansberry was the first Black female playwright to have a play performed on Broadway, as well as the youngest American and only fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. Politically active, Hansberry worked tirelessly on U.S. civil rights issues as well as global struggles against colonialism and imperialism, particularly crusading for the role of women in activism. She died tragically young at age 34, of pancreatic cancer, but left an enormous legacy, with her essays and plays continually adapted into new works, including songs (“To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” by Nina Simone) and musicals (the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Raisin). A supporter of gay rights and member of the queer community, Hansberry was posthumously inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1999.
Playwright, Director, Activist, and our inspiration.
Inspired by the meteoric rise of this playwright and activist, Stanley E. Williams and Quentin Easter established African American theatre as part of the San Francisco downtown theatre scene. In 1981, they founded Lorraine Hansberry Theatre (LHT) in the heart of the San Francisco theatre district.
After the passing of both founders in 2010, Steven Anthony Jones took the helm as Artistic Director. Upon his retirement in June 2017, Aldo Billingslea stepped up as Interim Artistic Director, followed by Darryl V. Jones. Margo Hall became the LHT’s Artistic Director in 2021.
LHT has produced more than 135 plays, including West Coast and World Premieres, experimental works, classics in the African American canon, lively musicals, and poignant socio-political dramas.
LHT’s presentations range from the works of Nobel Laureates Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott, and Toni Morrison to Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Charles Fuller, Alice Walker, and August Wilson; to large-scale musicals celebrating Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Lester Young, Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, and others; to award-winning dramas by James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and our namesake Lorraine Hansberry; to pioneering experimental theatre artists Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange and Maria Irene Fornes, and new works by Robert Alexander, Roger Guenveur Smith, David Rousseve Prince Gomolvilas, and Samm-Art Williams, among others.
LHT attracts one of the most eclectic audiences of any theatre in the San Francisco Bay region, and it prides itself on being inclusive and welcoming.
Our Founders pose infront of our previous location at 620 Sutter.
In the spirit of our namesake, we are introducing The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Fund for New Black Voices, dedicating resources to supporting rising Black playwrights, directors, choreographers, actors, and theatre makers.
The core mission of Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is to create theatrical works by, for, and about the Black experience, and provide employment and career-building career opportunities for actors, directors, designers, and technicians from the BIPOC community.
LHT prioritizes the work of Black and femme-identifying playwrights by bringing their stories to the community. LHT draws from the cultural and economic resources of the San Francisco Bay Area to enrich and strengthen the performing arts ; actively seeking and participating in collaboration with Bay Area Arts institutions and other related organizations.
The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco.
Photo credit: Lisa Keating
We are a not-for-profit theatre. DONATIONS and support are always appreciated.