Clear Space Theatre Company and James FitzSimmons announced Karen Richards is the first recipient of the Rebecca Luker Theatrical Partnership.
This spring, Richards will direct and star in “The Submission” at Clear Space.
FitzSimmons started the partnership to honor actor and friend Rebecca Luker, who passed away in 2020 from ALS. FitzSimmons and Luker worked together on several readings and the musical “Death Takes a Holiday.”
“Rebecca was one of the most talented, kindest, funniest and most committed humans on this planet. Her career on Broadway was legendary, but she was also fiercely committed to racial justice, equal rights and reproductive rights,” FitzSimmons said.
The year 2020 was a very difficult one for FitzSimmons. He lost both his mother and brother, as well as many friends, due to the pandemic. He was, however, particularly distraught when he heard about Rebecca Luker’s passing.
“I thought if anyone could beat ALS it would be Rebecca. She had that glorious, angelic soprano which would allay a sharp wit and sometimes a mouth like a truck driver,” FitzSimmons said. He immediately knew that he wanted to do something to honor her, though with New York theaters shuttered, it was not necessarily the best time. Then with the George Floyd murder and a new racial reckoning happening around the country, he wanted to make sure that whatever was established would reflect the changes the country and theater community were experiencing.
FitzSimmons used money he inherited from his mother’s estate to create the Rebecca Luker Theatrical Partnership, which would honor Luker’s commitment to racial justice and equal rights through the theater community.
“I admired the tenacity and drive that David Button and Wesley Paulson [of Clear Space Theatre] had in keeping the theater operating for 17 years and shepherding it into the future with a new home, and I thought this would be an excellent way to help them grow,” he said.
The partnership with Karen Richards and Clear Space will enhance audience outreach and participation to individuals and communities that don’t often see their stories reflected onstage, or those that may not have the financial means to attend the theater.
“Karen has a clear-eyed vision for this production and what it has to offer the community. And we both truly want to start conversations that are needed in the community,” said FitzSimmons. The expectation is that Richards will be able to meet with student groups and other community organizations in Sussex County, and invite them to attend a performance of “The Submission” with a post-performance discussion.
Originally from Jamaica, Karen Antoinette Richards is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in theatre performance with a minor in musical theatre.
Richards’ credits include: Deloris in “Sister Act,” Oda Mae Brown in “Ghost: the Musical,” Farmer’s Wife in “Mother Courage,” Gary Coleman in “Avenue Q,” and Effie White in “Dreamgirls.” She is looking forward to being a part of something bigger than herself through learning and creating with this fellowship and Clear Space Theatre.
“As an actor, I have had many people tell me that theater is not therapy, but for me, that is what it has been. Through the stage, I have reclaimed myself, and I want to share that same opportunity with others. After ‘The Submission,’ I want people to start the conversations that we have either shied away from or have only touched on lightly. That conversation is that representation matters, our stories need to be told, but at what cost? Do we have to keep sacrificing ourselves in order to see that day arrive? Can you, the audience, put yourselves in their shoes and choose to make a change?” said Richards.
“The Submission” performance dates will be Friday to Sunday, June 3 to 5.
For more information or to make a donation to the Rebecca Luker Theatrical Partnership, contact Stephanie Whitcomb at Clear Space Theatre Company, Stephanie@ClearSpaceTheatre.org or 302-227-2270.