|Cast of The Color Purple|
The 2012-13 theater season at North Carolina Central University will open with the celebrated work “The Color Purple” on Oct. 5 at 8 p.m., in the University Theater.
First conceived as a novel by Alice Walker in 1982, “The Color Purple” earned both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for fiction in 1983. Two years later, director Steven Spielberg brought the novel to the big screen in an adaptation that starred Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. In 2005, a musical version debuted on Broadway, earning 11 Tony Award nominations. The stage production has been called “soaring and joyful.”
Written as a series of diary entries and letters to God, this dramatic work focuses on the plight of Celie, a young African-American woman in the early 20th century. Debased by sexual, physical and verbal abuse from her father and later her husband, Celie learns to hope, love and triumph through her relationships with the other female characters, Shug, Sofia and Nettie.
Much of this hope is manifested through the color purple – a color of good judgment, peace, spiritual fulfillment and worthiness. Among this community of women, Celie learns to embrace her purpose and worth and enjoy the gift of life, love and opportunity.
Despite its critical acclaim, reviewers have criticized Walker’s portrayal of male African-American characters as archetypes of African-American men: unnecessarily negative, vile and unsympathetic. Characters like “Mister” the abusive husband of Celie, Harpo, the controlling husband of Sophia, and Pa, Celie’s sexually abusive stepfather.
“Although the novel met a storm of controversy, the winds of debate brought about conversation, insight and introspection that forced you to deal with the realistic destruction of racism, sexual assault, poverty, ignorance and violence,” said Dr. Asabi, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and director of the NCCU production.
“Shouldering the artistic undertaking of directing “The Color Purple,” I felt a huge and humbling sense of responsibility to the students, the department and the words of Alice Walker,” Asabi said.
It is a testament to the influence and permanence of Walker’s words that numerous lines from the work have become fixtures in the African-American vernacular: “Beat her”; “Until you do right by me, everything you even think about gonna fail”; “You sho’ is ugly”; “See Daddy, sinners have souls too.”
Retaining a spirit of gratefulness is an overarching theme of the production best described in the words of Shug: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.”
Unlike the novel, the musical version of “The Color Purple” is lifted by blues and jazz numbers.
NCCU’s production includes the talents of Ashlynn Hailey as Celie; Kay Monet as Nettie; Kammeran Giggers as Shug Avery; Tempest Farrar as Sophia; Robert “Dartez” Wright as Mister and Chase Rivers as Harpo.
The production will be staged Oct. 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 7 and 14 at 2 p.m.
Tickets for the play are $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. Because of mature subject matter, children under 4 will not be admitted. For ticket information, call 919-530-5170. For general information, call 919-530-6242.