Tony Nominee Named 2019 Denzel Chair

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Tony Nominee Named 2019 Denzel Chair

LaTanya Richardson Jackson will bring her film, television and theatre expertise to Fordham Theatre this season.

LaTanya Richardson Jackson will bring her film, television and theatre expertise to Fordham Theatre this season.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FORDHAM THEATRE

LaTanya Richardson Jackson will bring her film, television and theatre expertise to Fordham Theatre this season.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FORDHAM THEATRE

PHOTO COURTESY OF FORDHAM THEATRE

LaTanya Richardson Jackson will bring her film, television and theatre expertise to Fordham Theatre this season.

By BRIELLE CAYER, Contributing Writer

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Tony nominee LaTanya Richardson Jackson will join Fordham’s theatre program this fall as the new Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre. 

Jackson is known for her extensive career in film, television and theatre. She has appeared in films such as “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Losing Isaiah,” “U.S. Marshalls” and “The Fighting Temptations.” She has also found success on television with credits including “100 Center Street,” “Luke Cage” and “Rebel.” 

Throughout her career, Jackson has crafted astounding performances onstage at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Negro Ensemble Company, Signature Theatre and the Kennedy Center, among others. In 2014, Jackson assumed the role of Lena Younger alongside actor Denzel Washington, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’77, in the Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic, “A Raisin in the Sun,” for which she received a Tony and a Drama League nomination. Currently, Jackson continues to captivate audiences eight times a week as Calpurnia in Broadway’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Matthew Maguire, former director of Fordham Theatre, first saw Jackson on stage during the Broadway dress rehearsal of “A Raisin in the Sun.” 

“LaTanya was chosen to step into the role of Lena Younger on short notice because the original actor cast needed to withdraw for health reasons,” Maguire said. “LaTanya’s work blew me away. I knew that she had the briefest of rehearsal time. Plus, she was playing Denzel’s mother, and they are the same age! She was transformative. As I’ve told her, I was in awe of the power she generated.”

Jackson grew up in Atlanta, Ga., where she acted as a teenager. In a 2017 interview with Variety magazine, she recounts falling in love with acting at an early age: “I saw ‘Camelot’ and was so in love with that musical and was like, ‘Oh, I want to do this.’ When you think about what acting actually is, it’s a very unnatural thing to do as a vocation. It needs to be somewhere inside of you.” Jackson graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta with a B.A. in theatre in 1974. In 2012, Spelman granted her an honorary doctorate of fine arts for her artistic achievements.

As Fordham’s newest Denzel Chair, Jackson will join the select few who’ve held this position since 2011 when Denzel Washington gifted $2.25 million to Fordham Theatre to establish the Chair.

As former director of the theatre program, Maguire has had the major responsibility to choose each year’s Denzel Washington Chair. “It’s been an exciting challenge because — over time — the pool of artists who have held the Denzel Washington Chair become a brain trust, an art trust, who inspire the Fordham Theatre community,” he said of the task. “They have achieved the highest levels of recognition for their talent. They are more than luminaries; they are luminous.” 

“One of my parameters is the ability of the artist to move between mediums,” Maguire added. “I used Denzel as a model: The artists have shone in TV and film, but they always return to the theatre. Denzel has repeatedly told our students that theatre is their artistic home where they learn their craft.”

Fordham Theatre is thrilled to welcome and learn from Jackson. “LaTanya will finally get the chance to do what she told me she intends, which is to bring to our students all the pragmatic techniques of acting that they will use to thrive in their careers,” Maguire said. 

When asked by Variety what she tells students about her industry, Jackson replied, “I tell them if you choose this business, you need the heart to see it through. If you’re tenacious and prepare yourself by studying, it pays off — the dividend is so great. I tell young people that if your heart is there and you have some talent, nurture the talent and stay committed.”