Phylicia Rashad, who became a TV star 30 years ago as Clair Huxtable on NBC's "The Cosby Show," is also a Tony Award-winning actress ("A Raisin in the Sun") and an acclaimed theater director. She is directing the Mark Taper Forum's production of August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," the playwright's second installment in his decade-by-decade exploration of African American life, which runs from April 24 through June 9.
Rashad talked about directing "Joe Turner" on the phone from New York, where she was casting the play.
What makes Wilson's plays so remarkable?
I think his subject matter was certainly unique, and what he was doing with that subject matter was extraordinary. He was giving us a look at America in the 20th century through the lives of the residents of the Hill district in Pittsburgh. He gave us a sense of what the times were and how people were living in those times.
Who are your artistic models or heroes?
Anna Deavere Smith — it is her humanity — and George C. Wolfe. He is a mad genius. I have worked with [director] Kenny Leon extensively, and working with him has undoubtedly shaped my approach to directing.