Creative Spaces: Phylicia Rashad's Nature Escape

Actress Finds Inspiration at the New York Botanical Garden

Listen: Web Extra: Hear an Extended Version of Rashad's Interview with NPR's Michele Norris

Phylicia Rashad walks through the New York Botanical Garden.

hide captionPhylicia Rashad walks through the New York Botanical Garden.

Jeff Rogers, NPR News
The New York Botanical Garden's conservatory pool

hide captionThe New York Botanical Garden's conservatory pool.

The New York Botanical Garden Web Site
Joseph DeSciose
The conservatory pool at the New York Botanical Garden

hide captionThe conservatory pool at the New York Botanical Garden.

Joseph DeSciose

For three decades, actress Phylicia Rashad has taken on roles that exude warmth, wit and wisdom. She's perhaps best known as Claire Huxtable from TV's Cosby Show. More recently, her portrayal of the stony matriarch in A Raisin in the Sun earned her a Tony award. She's now preparing to return to Broadway this fall in the August Wilson drama, Gem of the Ocean.

Gem of the Ocean is the latest in Wilson's 10-part cycle about African-American life in the 20th century. Rashad plays Aunt Ester, the first female lead in Wilson's series. Ester, who's said to be 285 years old, is a powerful spiritual guide who helps former slaves find true freedom.

Playing Ester on stage is a physically and emotionally demanding role. To prepare for the challenge, Rashad turns to her primary source of inspiration — the great outdoors.

For Creative Spaces, an All Things Considered series that explores the studios, offices, hideaways and hamlets of artists, NPR's Michele Norris met Rashad in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Rashad spoke about the sanctuary of nature and how it helps her develop the characters she plays. "When you can sit in a place like this, and allow yourself to be," Rashad says, "the mind can become quiet."

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