Tony Awards: Condola Rashad on 'The Trip to Bountiful' and her second nomination

Cicely Tyson (left) and Condola Rashad star in

Cicely Tyson (left) and Condola Rashad star in "The Trip to Bountiful," a revival of the Horton Foote play now playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. (Credit: Joan Marcus)

Condola Rashad recently received her second Tony Award nomination for her role in "The Trip to Bountiful," the revival of the acclaimed Horton Foote play which is up for four Tony Awards, including best revival of a play. And while she called the recognition "humbling," she's been too busy to enjoy it.

Not only is the 26-year-old actress and former Mount Vernon resident appearing in "Bountiful" with theater titans Cicely Tyson and Chappaqua resident Vanessa Williams, but she's also in rehearsals for a starring role alongside movie star Orlando Bloom in an upcoming Broadway production of "Romeo and Juliet." In addition, she is making music with her band, Condola & The Stoop Kids, which is planning to release an EP this summer and an album later this year.

"Last year when I was nominated [for the 2012 play "Stick Fly], . . . my show had already closed," the actress said in an interview with Newsday Westchester. "I had all the time in the world, so I could attend all the luncheons and other things. And this year I actually feel kind of bad, because I haven't really had the time to really focus on the Tonys yet."


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This is her second straight nomination for best actress in a featured role. "Bountiful" stars Tyson as Carrie Watts, an elderly woman living with her son and daughter-in-law (Cuba Gooding Jr. and Williams) who yearns to return to her beloved hometown of Bountiful. Rashad plays Thelma, a young woman Watts meets on her bus trip to Bountiful, and has won raves for her performance, which critics have described as "understated" and "lovely."

For Rashad, the opportunity to work on "Bountiful," which is playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, was a chance to work with a cast and crew that she describes as a tight-knit family. She singled out Tyson, who was also nominated for her role, as someone with whom she especially bonded.

"I think our close friendship began when we both discovered we were both Sagittariuses," Rashad said, laughing. "I consider her a dear friend of mine and I learn from her every single day."

During each performance, the two actors share a powerful moment on stage, when Tyson and Rashad's characters sing the hymn "Blessed Assurance" to express their joy, and the audience sings along with them.

"I love that moment, because the audience always chimes in, and it's always a very loud chime in," Rashad said. "It seems like the entire audience is singing back. It's just really unifying."

Theater serves as a unifying element for Rashad and her mother, stage and television actress Phylicia Rashad, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the classic 80s sitcom "The Cosby Show." (Rashad's father is sports broadcaster Ahmad Rashad.)

Both mother and daughter have scored two Tony nominations, with Phylicia Rashad winning for lead actress in 2004's "A Raisin in the Sun." Condola Rashad expressed wonder at the feat. "I think I'm still bit in awe of it, to be honest," she said.

While she said her mother did not inspire her to pursue acting, she is emphatic that she was influenced by her mother's work ethic.

"[When I was younger] I was in the rehearsal room with her very often . . . so I think I just organically developed a love for the craft," Rashad said. "All the glitz and glamour, that's all fun. But the reason I [act] is the work. And that's what I got from her."

Rashad was raised by her (now divorced) parents in Mount Vernon, and even though she has not lived there since she was a teenager, she fondly referred to it as her own "Bountiful." She said she's planning a visit to the Westchester city soon, adding, "I'm very excited about [it], because I haven't been home in a long time."

Having already departed her real life "Bountiful" for her current place of residence of New York City, Rashad is also set to leave "Bountiful" the production in August to portray Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet," which begins previews at the Richard Rodgers Theater on Aug. 24.

"I'm excited," Rashad said about her first professional Shakespeare production. "I think that Juliet often has a lot cliches attached [to that role] . . . But I'm driven by the challenge."

While she makes time to savor her second Tony nomination, Rashad attended an awards luncheon last week, during which she tweeted photos of herself with Tyson and "Kinky Boots" composer Cyndi Lauper.

The only thing left for Rashad to tackle? Choosing her date to the Tony Awards. But she doesn't seem too concerned, and laughed when asked the question.

"Working on it right now," she said.

"The Trip to Bountiful" is playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre through Sept. 1. For tickets, go to www.thetriptobountifulbroadway.com.

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