Phylicia Rashad takes on directing role

WASHINGTON (AP) — Phylicia Rashad is best known for starring roles on stage and television, but as a director she decided to commemorate a historic moment that helped spur the civil rights movement.

The Tony Award-winning actress directed a reading of the play “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963″ at the Kennedy Center Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Four girls were killed in the explosion, which was set by white supremacists and helped spur passage of landmark civil rights legislation.

Rashad, who is recognized for her portrayal as the matriarch on “The Cosby Show” TV series and Broadway’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” said she wanted the reading to emphasize the “sanctity of joy, human existence and the value of all life.”

The play was written by Christina Ham and starred students from Howard University and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Rashad, an alumna of Howard University, said acting and directing are both challenging and rewarding. In her role as director, Rashad said she works to keep the creative energy in line with the writer’s vision, “while leaving room for people to add to the vision in a collaborative effort.”

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