Phylicia Rashad, a Tony-winning actress best known to television viewers as Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” will be among the guest artists at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre during its just-announced 2015-16 season.
Rashad won a 2004 Tony Award as best actress in a play for a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” The following year she was nominated for a Tony for her work in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.” Rashad, the sister of choreographer Debbie Allen and mother of stage actress Condola Rashad, has enjoyed a long screen career in film and television.
Rashad will direct a new play, “Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin” by Michael Benjamin Washington. In 2013 Rustin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in recognition of his work as a civil rights activist who was credited as the architect of the policy of nonviolence advocated by Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin was seen as a controversial figure because he was openly gay; as a result, much of his work was done outside the limelight.
The show, a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse, is the second of the season and runs Oct. 16-Nov. 15 at Copaken Stage.
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“This is the biggest season we’ve ever done,” said Eric Rosen, the Rep’s artistic director. “Each story resonates; they are ambitious world premieres, stories with vibrant music that speaks to generations and monumental historic stories told as only KC Rep re-imagines the classics.”
Rosen also said the season would be significant because some of the shows, beginning with the annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” would be seen in a refurbished Spencer Theatre equipped with a new stage floor, an acoustic redesign and expanded lobby amenities.
“With the very generous support from the community, we will have a frame for the works of art that we create,” he said.
Opening the season Sept. 11-Oct. 4 will be Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park With George,” the composer’s collaboration with James Lapine on the life and legacy of French post-impressionist painter Georges Seurat. Rosen will direct. The venue has not yet been announced: The Spencer will be in the midst of its renovations, and logistics require a performance site other than Copaken.
Those renovations will be unveiled with “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Jerry Genochio, Nov. 20-Dec. 24. The Rep’s other annual holiday show, “Santaland Diaries,” returns to Copaken with actor Brian Sills. It runs Dec. 3-24.
The season continues with Wendy Kesselman’s adaptation of “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. The Goodrich-Hackett play was a sobering hit in the 1950s, when revelations about Nazi death camps and the Holocaust were still fresh in people’s minds.
Kesselman updated the script with material from the diary that had been censored when it was first published, as well as other accounts of survivors. Kesselman’s version opened on Broadway in 1997. The show runs Jan. 29-Feb. 21, 2016, at the Spencer.
D. Tucker Smith’s “ Roof of the World” is a rewritten version of a play originally called “The Great Game.” Set in 1870, it depicts a romance between a British officer and a beautiful Indian spy during an era when the British and Russian empires fought for dominance of Central Asia. Rosen will direct the show, which runs Feb. 26-March 27, 2016, at the Copaken.
“The Fantasticks” was an unassuming little musical by a couple of young University of Texas graduates that opened in 1960 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse and became the longest-running off-Broadway musical of all time. Subsequently, the show became a staple of professional companies, community theater groups, college theater departments and high schools in perpetuity. Genochio will stage the show, which runs March 18-April 10, 2016, at the Spencer.
The season concludes with a festival of new plays curated by Marissa Wolf, the Rep’s director of new works. The plays are “Fire in Dreamland” by Rinne Groff and “Lot’s Wife” by Rosen. Performances run April 22-May 22, 2016, at the Copaken.