Asked during interviews for “Alex Cross” in October if she would ever consider retirement, celebrated stage and screen actress Cicely Tyson, 78, revealed that for the past “five or six years,” she’s been holding out for one particular theater role before agreeing to close the curtain on her illustrious career.
“I have always had a desire to do a certain play. And I have said over and over and over again to my manager that once I do that, then I would retire. Well, I never expected it to happen, and oddly enough, I got the call,” Tyson told us. “So, it might happen next year. I won’t say.”
At the time, she refused to mention the name of the play or the dream role.
On Monday, however, it was finally announced that Tyson will return to Broadway for the first time in three decades as the lead in a new production of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful. Tyson will play the iconic character Carrie Watts, an elderly woman who yearns a return trip to her small hometown of Bountiful, Texas, one last time, against the wishes of her overprotective son and daughter-in-law.
“To do the play and role justice, you need an actress of rare stature and command,” said director Michael Wilson in a press release. “Cicely Tyson has, over the span of a distinguished career, depicted iconic Americans engaged in immense struggle. I am thrilled that she is returning to the stage now to have her trip, to lead us all on a journey that promises to be unforgettable.”
Previews will begin on Easter Sunday, March 31 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Opening night is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23, and there are plans for the show to run for 14 weeks.
In October, Tyson was firm in her belief that she would not reassess her decision to retire once her then-mystery stage run ends. In fact, she said at the time, “I know I won’t” reconsider.
Below, she went on to credit “the universe” for allowing this role to finally land at her feet.
The Trip to Bountiful premiered as a teleplay on NBC in 1953, starring Lillian Gish as Carrie Watts, and the play had its Broadway premiere later that year with the same cast, which also included Eva Marie Saint. In 1986, Geraldine Page won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in director Peter Masterson’s film adaptation.
Cicely Tyson in The Corn is Green (1983)
Tyson last crossed the Broadway stage in the 1983 revival of The Corn is Green. She also received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in the 1972 feature film “Sounder,” and in 1974 was the first African-American actor to win a Best Actress Emmy when she took home the statue for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”