INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

PHYLICIA RASHAD

BILLY CRUDUP

CAROL LAWRENCE

ANDRUS NICHOLS

MARTY RAYBON

ALONZO KING

JAKE LANDERS

KERRY GILBERT

YI-MIN CAI

MICHAEL SHANE NEAL

TONYA S. HOLLY

CAROLYN PALMER

Spotlight On
International
Artists

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

PHYLICIA RASHAD

BILLY CRUDUP

CAROL LAWRENCE

ANDRUS NICHOLS

MARTY RAYBON

ALONZO KING

JAKE LANDERS

KERRY GILBERT

YI-MIN CAI

MICHAEL SHANE NEAL

TONYA S. HOLLY

CAROLYN PALMER

Spotlight On
International
Artists

 

 

“The meaning of life is to see.”
- Hui Neng

“Deep at the center of my being there is an infinite well of gratitude. I now allow this gratitude to fill my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness, my very being. This gratitude radiates out from me in all directions, touching everything in my world, and returns to me as more to be grateful for. The more gratitude I feel, the more I am aware that the supply is endless.”
- Louise L. Hay

“Love is stronger than differences. We all live on the same planet. We walk on the same earth. We breathe the same air. No matter where I was born, no matter what color skin I have or what religion I was raised to believe in, everything and everyone is connected to this one life. I no longer choose to prejudge others, to feel either superior or inferior. I choose equality – to have warm, loving, open communication with every member of my Earthly family. I am a member of the earth community.”
- Louise L. Hay

“Enlightenment is always there. Small enlightenment will bring great enlightenment. If you breathe in and are aware that you are alive – that you can touch the miracle of being alive – then that is a kind of enlightenment.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Many people are alive but don't touch the miracle of being alive.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“A frequent change of role, and of the lighter sort – especially such as one does not like forcing one's self to use the very utmost of his ability in the performance of – is the training requisite for a mastery of the actor’s art.”
- Edwin Booth

“But Nature cast me for the part she found me best fitted for, and I have had to play it, and must play it till the curtain falls.”
- Edwin Booth

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.”
- Eleanora Duse

“The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink - and in drinking understand themselves.” – Federico García Lorca

“Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.” – Jerzy Grotowski

“Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others.” – Danny Thomas

“There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we've discovered in its pure state.” – John Coltrane

“Living consciously involves being genuine; it involves listening and  responding to others honestly and openly; it involves being in the moment.” – Sidney Poitier

 

Phylicia Rashad

Recipient of the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her performance as “Shelah” in Tarell Alvin Mcraney's “Head of Passes” at the Public Theater. Ms. Rashad has had an enduring career on stage, in television, and film. The first African-American actress to win a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress as 'Lena Younger' in Lorraine Hansberry's “A Raisin in the Sun,” receiving a Drama Desk award on Broadway. Other notable Broadway appearances include “August: Osage County,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” opposite James Earl Jones, 'Aunt Ester' in “Gem of the Ocean” receiving a Tony Award nomination, “Blue,” “Jelly’s Last Jam,” “Into the Woods,” and “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death.” She has also appeared Off-Broadway in “Everybody’s Ruby” at New York’s Public Theatre, “Cymbeline,” “The Duplex,” and “Bernarda Alba”at Lincoln Center Theatre, “Helen,” “Puppet Play,” “Zooman and the Sign,” “Sons and Fathers of Sons,” “In an Upstate Motel,” “Weep Not for Me,” “The Great Mac Daddy” at the Negro Ensemble Company,” and “The Sirens” at MTC. Ms. Rashad’s regional work includes “Medea” and “Blues for an Alabama Sky” at the Alliance Theatre, “Every Tongue Confesses” at Arena Stage, and “Gem of the Ocean” at Huntington Stage. Ms. Rashad's best known television roles as 'Claire Huxtable' on “The Cosby Show” and 'Ruth Lucas' on “Cosby” receiving many awards and honors including NAACP Image Awards, People's Choice Awards, and Emmy nominations. Among her film appearances include “Creed,” Tyler Perry's “Good Deeds,” and Perry's film of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.” As a director, she made her directorial debut at the Seattle Repertory Theater with “Gem of the Ocean” and has helmed productions at prestigious theaters throughout the United States including The Goodman Theater, Ebony Repertory Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, the  McCarter Theatre, and the Long Wharf Theatre.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction from the creative process of acting?

Collaboration. Theatre is not the result of a singular achievement. It’s not the same as writing a poem or a novel or a symphony. You always have to compare it to dance and music and the visual arts. I enjoy the process of working as an actor working with the director, the playwright, with the cast, of working with the designers and the crew – it’s a complete collaboration.

“A Raisin in the Sun” with Phylicia Rashad, Audra MacDonald, Sanaa Lathan, Justin Martin and Sean Combs

What is your approach as an actress to the first read-through of a play?

It varies; it’s never just one way. Sometimes it’s a completely new experience. That’s always the fun when there are surprises. Discovering something, and even though I may have read the script at least once or twice, there are still surprises. We like the surprises; we want them to happen.

L to R Phylicia Rashad, Audra MacDonald and Sanaa Lathan in “A Raisin in the Sun”

How different is your approach when you’re directing a play?

As a director, what I do is listen. I am not having any expectations. I want to hear the words, the text through the actors’ unique voices.

Among your memorable performances is 'Shelah,' the matriarch in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Head of Passes.” What drew you to want to play her?

I like the playwright’s work -- his poetic text and how contemporary the play is. It’s not set in 2016 – the text and the times are regional – yet it’s not so far removed from us today. He captured it very well. I love working in plays in which the playwright has captured the language, the characters through the speech.

It must have been a similar experience for you as Aunt Esther in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.”

Phylicia Rashad and Anthony Chisholm in “Gem of the Ocean”

His texts are “living texts,” they really are. It’s a gift to have a text that is a “living text.” At the very first day of rehearsal as we were doing the read-through, when I came to the passage when Aunt Esther describes the ‘City of Bones,’ I got caught up in it. I fell into the rhythm of August’s writing; the rhythm carried me through. You just can’t sit down and scan it. The writing is very organic. If you move into it, it will transport you. It took me someplace else.

Does it influence your creative process having the playwright in the room when you rehearse?

You can always ask them questions; that’s very helpful in learning about the character, the playwrights intention. You don’t have it working on a play by Shakespeare; he’s not there. Yet, all the meaning is in his play.

Phylicia Rashad in “Gem of the Ocean”

Many plays deal with an enormous amount of history. How have you learned to deal with historical facts in a play?

An actor can’t play history. The most important thing we do as actors is to connect with one another. I’m always looking for some truth of human behavior – that’s what it’s all about.

In the roles you’ve played, you’ve had to delve into the great realm of the mysterious, the great powers that exist between heaven and earth. How do you find your way to their depth and power?

It comes from the text itself, and with the help of the director – but all of it comes from the text. And then as you continue to work with it, subtle connections are being made for the character throughout the story, as presented through the play. This is the work. Every actor doesn’t work in the same way. Each actor creates their own vocabulary which develops over time and through the work; it’s very real thing, the different ways that actors work. It’s one of the first things I learned as a director sitting on the other side of the table. I had never experienced the different approaches in which actors work on a play.

Phylicia Rashad as Aunt Esther in “Gem of the Ocean” by August Wilson

How does the creative process change for you when you direct?

When I’m directing what changes is that my scope becomes larger. As an actor I’m working with the character whom I’m portraying. As a director, now I’m concerned with an entire production, so I have to hold that vision, and line that up with everything that needs to be done, while making room for all the creative energies in the collaboration, and everything I haven’t yet considered.

We’re faced with great challenges today in our personal lives, in society. What role can the work we do help in the healing process?

I think there’s always been pain in the world. You look back at history --when weren't there things like this happening? But we didn’t have as easy access to the information; we couldn’t learn about it so quickly. So now that we can, maybe together we can do something about it. We should all do what we can, to help in the healing that needs to take place. But the healing can take place in a classroom, it can take place in a grocery store – anywhere that people are conscious of one another – yes, healing can take place.

Phylicia Rashad


"It is a law of life that man cannot live for himself alone. Extreme individualism is insanity. The world's problems are also our personal problems. Health is achieved through maintaining our personal truth in a balanced relation of love to the rest of the world. No expression is more emblematic of this relation than the creative act which we call art. No art by its very constitution typifies the social nature of that creative act more than the theatre. The theatre, to be fully understood and appreciated, must be seen as a manifestation of this process of interchange between society and the individual. It must be judged as a continuous development of groups of individuals within society, a development which becomes richer, acquires greater force and value as it grows with the society in which it originates. Only in this way can the theatre nourish us.  - Harold Clurman

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