We’re thrilled to announce that Kelvin Roston, Jr. is the recipient of the 2019/20 Nicholas Rudall Classic Artist Award!
Established in 2018 to honor Founding Artistic Director Nicholas Rudall, this award acknowledges an artist with a passion for and dedication to classic plays. Kelvin Roston, Jr. joins previous recipients Kate Fry and Allen Gilmore as a shining example of an artist upholding Rudall’s vision for classic theatre’s capacity to pose enduring and provocative questions that define the human experience.
“Kelvin is masterful at making stories resonate with contemporary audiences thanks to his passion, intelligence, and extraordinary range as an actor,” says Charles Newell, Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director. “I know Nick would have been dazzled by Kelvin’s towering portrayals of two such different kings, Hedley and Oedipus.”
Clare Lorring, Nicholas Rudall’s daughter, shared, “I am thrilled to hear about Kelvin as the recipient of the Nick Rudall award. He is a kind, thoughtful, and brilliant actor, and I know my dad would have been glad for Kelvin to receive this honor. I look forward to being able to see Kelvin at Court in the future.”
We interviewed Kelvin to learn a bit more about the place Court holds in his career as an actor and how it feels to be recognized in this way.
What does it mean to you to win the Nick Rudall award?
Receiving the Nick Rudall Award is absolutely amazing! There aren’t words that can adequately express how completely overwhelmed and honored I felt when I received the news. It feels incredible to have your peers enjoy your work.
How has Court played a role in your work as an actor?
Court has been tremendous for me and my career. When I moved to Chicago from St. Louis, MO on April 30, 2008, I planned to audition in the city for the rest of the year and figured that I would begin booking in 2009. However, God had other plans. The opening night for Court’s production of The First Breeze of Summer by Leslie Lee, directed by the incomparable Ron OJ Parson, was happening in May. My cousin, Ron Conner, was in the show and invited me. At that opening night, I met the wonderful Runako Jahi and the incredible Ilesa Duncan who were working on a production at ETA Creative Art Foundation that I was able to audition for and book!
Fast forward to August of 2009, and I was cast in my first Court production, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom as the stuttering nephew, Sylvester. That show made me a member of the Actors Equity Association. Being involved in different readings of plays, workshops of scripts, and a music consultant on productions have all aided in sharpening my skills and my craft. Of course, this past season has been mind-blowing, being able to perform in an African-American classic, August Wilson’s King Hedley II and Sophocles’ classic, Oedipus Rex. So, Court will always have a special place in my heart.
What’s been one of your favorite roles at Court?
One of my favorite roles at Court has to include the first one, Sylvester from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I’ve always enjoyed digging into a character and attempting to find the deeper qualities they possess. It was more satisfying in this role, however, because I’ve found that we generally attribute a speech impediment to a level of weakness. I tried to fight against that. I wanted the audience to see him as a strong individual who happened to have a stutter as opposed to allowing the stutter to define him, completely.
Floyd Barton from August Wilson’s Seven Guitars is right up there at the top, as well. That cast was incredible. Finally, most recently, playing the role of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex is one of the highlights of my career. The family we became as a cast and crew in the creation of that piece of art was something one rarely experiences.
In what ways are you hoping to give back to Court’s audiences and community in your future collaborations with us?
I am an artist. I do art, because it’s who I am. I can do art just for myself; just for the sake of art. However, I always remember that I can only do art as a career because of the audiences who come out and buy those tickets or that subscription. All I can offer is my complete self in every single production I’m blessed to be a part of.
Photos by Michael Brosilow.