The recently opened Broadway play Stick Fly boasts some of the biggest names in the entertainment and theater worlds onstage and behind the scenes. The play, by Lydia R. Diamond, about an upper-middle-class black family during a weekend on Martha's Vineyard, stars Mekhi Phifer, Dulé Hill and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Grammy Award-winning songstress Alicia Keys not only is one of the show's producers but also has been leading postshow talks about issues raised in the play.
But the critics have been raving about an unheralded actress and her searing performance. Show business insiders know that this actress, 25-year-old Condola Rashad, has show business royalty in her veins. She's the daughter of actress Phylicia Rashad and broadcaster and former NFL great Ahmad Rashad. Her aunt is Debbie Allen.
With Stick Fly, many believe that the young Rashad's moment has arrived. She talked to The Root about her success and lessons learned from her famous family members.
The Root: Congratulations! You've been almost universally praised for your performance in Stick Fly and have been heralded as the hot new actress on Broadway this season. What's it like to be Condola Rashad right now, and how are you handling all the attention?
Condola Rashad: Thank you very much. Life is definitely great right now! I'm having so much fun working on this show, and I'm so glad that people are responding so well. I'm finding it very easy to stay grounded at this time. As long as I just focus on the work, then everything will fall into place.
TR: Your mom is Phylicia Rashad. Your aunt is Debbie Allen. Your dad is Ahmad Rashad. Those are some major names in the entertainment world. What are some of the most important lessons you've learned from each of them?
CR: My mother always taught me that when it comes to acting, the most important thing is honesty and to just give yourself fully to every moment. My aunt has taught me that when you work hard, wonderful things can be achieved. My dad is my hero, and every project I've ever worked on, he has been there for me. Without his support, I truly wouldn't be where I am now.
TR: In Stick Fly, your character, Cheryl, is almost like the conscience of the play, the character who lets us see the contradictions of this family's life. Tell us your take on Cheryl and the challenges of playing her and bringing out all the nuances of the character.
CR: The real challenge for me in the beginning was making sure that Cheryl was not a stereotype. She is a bright young woman who has felt for a long time that she has gone through life unseen. She has many layers and many different walls that she has built up in order to get through life. So I think a great challenge of working with the character was finding all of her colors and deciding when those different colors come out.
TR: Where do you see yourself down the road? More theater? Movies? Television? What's the dream vision you have for yourself?
CR: Well, in my life so far, I've never really been able to predict exactly where I'll be next. Life has been full of beautiful surprises. I'm now beginning to focus more on developing my music, which is something that I've been passionate about since I was a child. I'm very interested in working more in film, and I'm realizing now that no matter where I go, I will always come back to theater because it is my foundation.
Karyn D. Collins is a contributor to The Root.