Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Actress Phylicia Rashad to Receive the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre

From our friends at the Shakespeare Theatre Company...

Tony-Award Winning Actress to Be Honored at the Shakespeare Theatre Company Gala

To acknowledge her outstanding contribution to classical theatre in America, Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) will present Tony-Award winning actress, singer and stage director Phylicia Rashad with the prestigious William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre (Will Award.) The ceremony will take place at the Shakespeare Theatre Company Gala at the Harman Center for the Arts on Sunday October 14, 2018. STC will also honor Jacqueline Badger Mars with the Sidney Harman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts, in recognition of her generous support of STC and her commitment to arts education in Washington, DC.

Rashad will receive the Will Award in recognition of her outstanding career on the stage in classical theatre. Most recently she played Titania in the Public Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare in the Park (NY.) Rashad made history with her performance as Lena Younger in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway, becoming the first black actress to win a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, as well as a Drama Desk Award for the role. In 2016 she was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame and received the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her performance as Shelah, in Tarell Alvin McCraney's Head of Passes at the Public Theater. In 2015, she received Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's Spirit of Shakespeare Award. Rashad played Queen Britannia in Cymbeline at Lincoln Center and performed in The Wiz and other musicals on Broadway.

“Phylicia Rashad’s outstanding career and dynamic accomplishments in classical theatre make her a fitting choice for the Will Award. As a gifted classical actor, she continues to delight audiences with her performances on both stage and screen,” said STC Artistic Director Michael Kahn. “In addition to her work as an actor she has received critical acclaim for her work as a director, leading productions at the Goodman Theatre, the Long Wharf Theatre, the McCarter Theatre and the Kennedy Center. She continues to be an inspirational teacher to the next generation of classical actors.”

Rashad joins notable classical theatre artists who have previously received the award, including: Laura Linney, Charles Dance, Julie Taymor, Sir John Hurt, Stacey Keach, Dame Diana Rigg, Annette Bening, Sir Ian McKellen, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Dame Judi Dench, Fiona Shaw, Ralph Fiennes, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sam Waterston, Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Christopher Plummer, Kevin Kline, the late Joseph Papp and Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Michael Kahn.

Performers at this year’s Gala include Broadway actress and singer Laura Benanti, who won a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for her role in Gypsy and earned rave reviews for recent Broadway productions of She Loves Me, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Step Afrika! will captivate audiences with their unique dance style. Additional performers and further special guests will be announced later this fall.

For her generous support of the arts and arts education in the DC community, the Sidney Harman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts will be presented to Jacqueline Badger Mars. A lifelong champion of the arts, Mars was instrumental in creating the Mars Urban Arts Initiative, a creative platform for Washington Performing Arts and the DC community that showcases and empowers local artists through performances and unique educational programs. 

The Gala will be held under the Honorary Patronage of His Excellency the British Ambassador and Lady Darroch. Gala Chairs Dr. Paul and Mrs. Rose Carter will lead a Committee of dedicated STC Trustees and supporters in the effort to raise vital funds for STC's arts education and community engagement programs.

More than 600 influential arts, business, political and philanthropic leaders attend this annual event, now in its 26th year. The evening will begin at Sidney Harman Hall with a champagne and wine reception, followed by the award ceremony and a world-class performance of musical theatre, opera, comedy, tragedy, modern dance and ballet; and it may feature some surprises. Guests will then enjoy a three-course dinner and dancing at the spectacular National Building Museum.

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A versatile performer, Rashad became a household name when she portrayed Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, a character whose appeal has earned her numerous honors and awards for over two decades. Currently, she has a recurring role as Diana Dubois on the popular Fox TV series Empire and will be featured in Tarrell Alvin McCraney's David Makes Man, a new series on the OWN Network.

While television was a catalyst in the rise of Rashad's career, she has also been a force on the stage, appearing both on and Off-Broadway, often in projects that showcase her musical talent such as Jelly's Last Jam, Into the Woods, Dreamgirls and The Wiz. In 2016, Ms. Rashad was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame, received the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her performance as Shelah in Tarell Alvin McCraney's Head of Passes at the Public Theater, which she reprised at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. On Broadway, Ms. Rashad has performed Medea at the Alliance Theater, Violet Weston in August: Osage County, Big Mama in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (a role that she reprised on the London Stage), Aunt Ester in August Wilson’s Gem Of The Ocean, (Tony Award nomination) and Queen Britannia in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline at Lincoln Center. Ms. Rashad received both the Drama Desk and the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her riveting performance as Lena Younger in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun. She appeared in Ryan Coogler's Creed, Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, and starred in Perry's highly acclaimed version of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

Phylicia made her critically-acclaimed directorial debut at the Seattle Repertory Theater with August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean. She has also directed The Signature Theatre’s revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Our Lady of 121st Street. Other credits include, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (2014 NAACP Theatre Award for Best Director) at the Mark Taper Forum, Immediate Family at the Taper and Goodman Theatre, Fences at the Long Wharf Theatre and McCarter Theatre, A Raisin in the Sun at Ebony Repertory Theatre, Kirk Douglas Theatre, and Westport Country Playhouse, Four Little Girls at the Kennedy Center, Our Lady of 121st Street at the Signature Theatre, and The Roommate at Steppenwolf Theatre.

Respected in the academic world, Rashad is the first recipient of the Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre at Fordham University. She received an Honorary Doctorate from Spelman College, where First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the 2011 commencement address.

In 2015, Ms. Rashad received the BET Honors Theatrical Arts Award, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's Spirit of Shakespeare Award, and the Inaugural Legacy Award of the Ruben Santiago-Hudson Fine Arts Learning Center, amongst many other awards. She also serves on a number of prestigious boards, including the PRASAD Project. Since 2017, Phylicia Rashad has been the Brand Ambassador of the National Trust for Historic Preservation African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Phylicia Rashad graduated magna cum laude from Howard University.

Mrs. Mars was instrumental in creating the Mars Urban Arts Initiative, a creative platform for Washington Performing Arts and the D.C. community that showcases and empowers local artists through performances and unique educational programs. As Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Washington National Opera (WNO), she played an instrumental role in the merging of the Opera with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2011. Her support has been instrumental in bringing world-class opera productions to the Washington area, including WNO’s first-ever complete Ring Cycle in 2016; in promoting opera throughout the community via the annual M&M’s Opera in the Outfield series, now in its 10th year and available free to the public; and in securing the Kennedy Center’s cultural impact through its first major expansion project since its opening in 1971. She stepped down as Chairman of the WNO Board of Trustees in 2017, but continues to serve as Chairman Emeritus.

Laura Benanti is a Tony Award-winning actress who began her Broadway career at the age of 18, starring opposite Richard Chamberlain in The Sound of Music. Since then, Laura has appeared in nine Broadway shows (including Gypsy and She Loves Me), been nominated for five Tony Awards (winning for Gypsy), and continues to have a flourishing television career. Recent TV appearances include The Detour (current series regular), Nashville, Supergirl, The Good Wife,The Sound of Music Live! On NBC, and frequent appearances as Melania Trump on Late Night with Stephen Colbert.

Recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) is the nation’s leading premier classical theatre company. Today, STC is synonymous with artistic excellence and making classical theatre more accessible to audiences in and around the nation’s capital.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Kahn and Executive Director Chris Jennings, STC’s innovative productions inspire dialogue that connects classic works to the modern human experience. The Company focuses on works with profound themes, complex characters and poetic language written by Shakespeare, his contemporaries and the playwrights he influenced in order to preserve and promote classic theatre - ambitious, enduring plays with universal themes - for all audiences.

A leader in arts education, STC has a stable of initiatives that teach and excite learners of all ages, from school programs and adult acting classes to accessible community programming like play-relevant discussion series and the Free for All. For the past 25 years the Free For All program has offered an annual remount of a popular production completely free of charge to all audience members.

Located in downtown Washington, DC, STC performs in two theatres, the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre and the 774-seat Sidney Harman Hall. In addition to STC productions appearing year-round, these spaces also accommodate presentations from outstanding local performing arts groups and nationally renowned organizations. The Company has been a fixture in the vibrant Penn Quarter neighborhood since 1992.