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Spring Arts Preview

Theater Spotlight: Phylicia Rashad

The 'Cosby' star and Tony-winning stage actress will be directing August Wilson's play 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' at the Mark Taper Forum.

March 08, 2013|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
  • Phylicia Rashad
Phylicia Rashad (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)

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.

 FULL COVERAGE: 2013 Spring arts preview

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.

Which artists today excite you?

[Actor, writer, director] Ruben Santiago-Hudson is very exciting. I saw "Newsies" for the first time, and actor Corey Cott is exciting. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my lord. He is an artistic genius.

What is the last performance you went to that took your breath away?

"Newsies"! I went on a lark. I had my nieces visiting. I haven't been that excited about a musical. ... Watching that show put me into remembrance of my time in "The Wiz," because you could feel the union of the cast — the camaraderie.

susan.king@latimes.com

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