Phylicia Rashad to star this summer in play at Wheeler co-presented by Theatre Aspen and the Aspen Music Festival and School |

Phylicia Rashad to star this summer in play at Wheeler co-presented by Theatre Aspen and the Aspen Music Festival and School

Two time Tony Award winner, Phylicia Rashad will appear as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's "Master Class" this summer.
Courtesy photo

Phylicia Rashad — who played America’s favorite mom on “The Cosby Show” among other standout roles onstage and onscreen — will come to Aspen this summer to play opera star Maria Callas in the Tony Award-winning “Master Class.”

“Master Class” is a full-length drama by Terrence McNally inspired by the series of master classes given by the opera diva Maria Callas at Juilliard toward the end of her career. The play puts her center stage again as she coaxes, prods, and inspires students — “victims,” as she calls them — into giving the performances of their lives while revealing the disappointments in her own life and her relationship with the shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

Following last year’s “The Sound of Music” for their fourth annual collaboration, Theatre Aspen and the Aspen Music Festival and School announced the complete casting for the special presentation “Master Class,” scheduled for July 9 and 10 at the Wheeler Opera House.

Phylicia Rashad is a two-time Tony Award winner and a two-time Drama Desk Award. She became a household name when she portrayed Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” a character whose enduring appeal has earned numerous awards and honors for over two decades.

Her film and television credits include “Jingle Jangle,” Pixar’s “Soul and Black Box,” “A Fall From Grace,” “Creed,” “Creed II,” “Creed III,” “For Colored Girls”; “This is Us” (three Emmy nominations),”Diarra From Detroit,” “Little America,” “The Crossover,” “The Good Fight,” “David Makes Man,” and “Empire.”

Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2016, Rashad received Tony and Drama Desk Awards for her performances as Faye in “Skeleton Crew” and Lena Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun”; the Lucille Lortel Award for her performance as Shelah in “Head of Passes”; and a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Ester in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.”

She has directed plays by Pearl Cleage (“Blues For An Alabama Sky”), August Wilson (“Gem of the Ocean,” “Fences,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”), Stephen Adly Guirgis, (Our Lady of 121st Street”) and Paul Oakley Stovall (“Immediate Family”) at prestigious regional and off-Broadway Theaters.

She is the co-chair of the Advisory Council for the African American Cultural Heritage Fund and is currently Dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard University.

In the dramatic and musical roles of the students, Rashad will be joined by sopranos Anna Thompson and Marissa Moultrie and tenor Joseph Tancredi — three rising-star opera fellows of the AMFS’s Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS program — accompanied by pianist Rhys Burgess from AMFS’s Collaborative Piano program.

Joanna Gleason will direct the production of “Master Class,” coming to the Wheeler on July 9-10.
Courtesy photo

“Master Class” features direction by Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Joanna Gleason (“Into the Woods,” “The Normal Heart”).

“I love this play, and the chance to hear glorious, rising talent bring it to life is thrilling,” she said. “I’m so happy to be reuniting with Phylicia, who brings such fierce intelligence, heart, and humor to every role.”

Gleason won a Tony for her portrayal of the baker’s wife in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods.” Other Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include: “The Normal Heart,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (Tony Nom), “I Love My Wife,” “Happiness,” “Joe Egg” (Tony Nom), “Son of the Prophet,” and “The Real Thing.”

Television includes: “The West Wing,” “The Newsroom,” “Love and War,” “Bette,” and many more.

Films include “Hannah and her Sisters,” “Boogie Nights,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “The Skeleton Twins,” and many more. She directed “Love and War” for CBS and “Oh, Baby” for Lifetime Television.

She’s written and directed two films: a short, “Morning into Night,” which debuted at the Los Angeles International Short Film and was selected for the Cambridge film in England, and a feature “The Grotto,” which just won the Best Narrative Feature Premiere at the Heartland International Film Festival this year, as well as being officially selected for and winning awards in seven other international film festivals. 

Tickets may be purchased at any time through the Aspen Music Festival and School website at Tickets range from $65 to $125.

The AMFS Box Office is open by phone only April 12-June 17, Monday to Friday, noon-4 p.m. The box office will be open daily for in-person sales and by phone June 19-Aug. 20, noon-4 p.m., or concert time or intermission, if applicable. 

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