BY WALTER OPINDE
On this memorable day, June 19, 1948, an African-American Actress, Singer, and Stage Director, Phylicia Rashad was born in Phylicia Ayers-Allen, Houston. Rashad is best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show (between 1984 and 1992), which earned her Emmy Award nominations in 1985 and 1986. She was dubbed “The Mother” of the African-American community at the 2010 NAACP Image Awards.
In 2004, Rashad became the first black actress to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, which she won for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Her other Broadway credits include Into the Woods (1988), Jelly’s Last Jam (1993), Gem of the Ocean (2004), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2008). She won an NAACP Image Award when she reprised her A Raisin in the Sun role in the 2008 television adaptation. She has also appeared in the films For Colored Girls (2010), Good Deeds (2012), and Creed (2015).
Rashad’s mother, Vivian Ayers, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated artist, poet, playwright, scholar, and publisher. Her father, Andrew Arthur Allen, was an orthodontist. While Rashad was growing up, her family moved to Mexico, where she learned how to speak Spanish fluently. Rashad studied at Howard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1970 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She was initiated into the Alpha Chapter during her tenure at Howard University
Rashad first became known for her stage work with a string of Broadway credits, including Deena Jones in Dreamgirls. She was Sheryl Lee Ralph’s understudy until leaving the show in 1982 after being passed over as Ralph’s full-time replacement. As well, she played a Munchkin in The Wiz for three and a half years. In 1978, she released the album Josephine Superstar, a disco concept album telling the life story of Josephine Baker. Other Broadway credits include August: Osage County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Gem of the Ocean, Raisin in the Sun (2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play/Drama Desk Award), Blue, Jelly’s Last Jam, Into the Woods, and Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death. Other non-Broadway credits include Lincoln Center’s productions of Cymbeline and Bernarda Alba; Helen, The Story and Everybody’s Ruby at the Public Theater; The Negro Ensemble Company productions of Puppet Play, Zooman and the Sign, Sons and Fathers of Sons, In an Upstate Motel, Weep Not For Me, and The Great Mac Daddy; Lincoln Center’s production of Ed Bullins’ The Duplex; and The Sirens at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Rashad was the first black actress of any nationality to win the Best Actress (Play) Tony Award, which she won for her 2004 performance as Lena Younger in a revival of the play A Raisin in the Sun by playwright Lorraine Hansberry. She was nominated for the same award the following year, for Gem of the Ocean. Rashad also won the 2004 Drama Desk award for Best Actress in a Play for A Raisin in the Sun by tying (split award) with Viola Davis for the play Intimate Apparel.
In 2007, Rashad made her directorial debut with the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. More recently, in early 2014 Rashad directed a revival of Fences, also by Wilson, at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, which ran to generally positive reviews, and continued an ongoing focus on Wilson’s work, including a well-received production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom that she directed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in late 2016. From March 17th to May 1, 2016, Rashad played the lead role of Shelah in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play Head of Passes at The Public Theater. Her performance was positively reviewed.
Read more of Rashad’s story via: https://www.biography.com/people/phylicia-rashad-12816787