Oral History Bios: Billie Allen and Phylicia Rashad

Billie Allen

BILLE ALLEN  is a highly respected actor/director/philanthropist. After appearing on Broadway as a dancer in Jerome Robbins’s On the Town, many musicals followed.  Elia Kazan spotted her talent and arranged a scholarship to study acting under Lee Strasberg.  Later Billie studied with Lloyd Richards and Harold Clurman.  She appeared in the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun, Blues for Mister Charlie, and Critic’s Choice. Off-Broadway she played roles in Funnyhouse of a Negro, Bohikee Creek, and in Every Night When the Sun Goes Down at the American Place Theatre for which she received a Lucille Lortel nomination for her performance. Her most recent film appearance is in Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.

On television, Billie has been seen in dozens of commercials. A trailblazer, she appeared in the first national soap commercial for Tide to feature African Americans.

As a director, Billie’s credits include highly praised productions. Most recently, she is proud to have directed the late Ruby Dee in Saint Lucy’s Eyes.

As a co-founder of the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop in the 1970s, Billie Allen has helped nurture generations of playwrights.  Billie co-founded the Women’s Project at the American Place Theatre, and along with Julia Miles was a co-founder of the League of Professional Women’s Project.

She has served on the Boards of the American Place Theatre, the New Federal Theatre, and AMAS Repertory and for many years was on the administrative board of the TONY Awards. In 2006, to honor her husband, an outstanding arranger, composer, orchestrator and pianist, Billie established the Luther Henderson Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Juilliard School of Music.

Photo by: James Alexander


PHYLICIA RASHAD, whether she is bringing laughter to millions of television viewers around the world, moving theatre-goers to tears, thrilling movie fans, offering new insights to students by teaching Master Classes at renowned learning institutions that include Howard University, Julliard, and Carnegie Mellon, serving on Boards of prestigious organizations, or breaking new ground as a director, Phylicia Rashad is one of the entertainment world’s most extraordinary performing artists. A native of Houston, Texas, Phylicia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Howard University. She became a household name when she portrayed “Claire Huxtable” on The Cosby Show, a character whose appeal has earned her numerous honors and awards. Currently, she portrays the role of Dr. Vanessa Young in the NBC series, Do No Harm. She has also been a force on the stage in projects that showcase her musical talent shown in  “Jelly’s Last Jam,” “Into The Woods,” “Dreamgirls,” and “The Wiz”.

Rashad has performed on Broadway in August Osage County, in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot TinRoof, in August Wilson’s Gem Of The Ocean, and in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline at Lincoln Center.  She received both the Drama Desk and the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her riveting performance in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun.

Phylicia made her directorial debut at the Seattle Repertory Theater with August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. Critics gave her rave reviews, saying “Rashad steers Seattle Rep’s show with great sensitivity and understanding – for both the text and actors.”

In 2011, the Los Angeles Times hailed Rashad’s California directing debut of A Raisin in the Sun by stating that she “…nails the play’s rich humor in a solidly rendered production.” She remounted it in Los Angeles and in Westport Connecticut.

Respected in the academic world, Rashad is the first recipient of the Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre at Fordham University. She received Honorary Doctorates from Spelman College, Fordham University, Carnegie Mellon University, Howard University, Providence College, Morris Brown College, Clark Atlanta University, Barber Scotia College, St. Augustine College, and Brown University.

Among the myriad awards that decorate her walls are several NAACP Image Awards and the Pan African Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Phylicia Rashad is also the mother of two adult children.

Photo by: Matthew Jordan Smith


Categories: Events

Connect with Us

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s