From Page to Stage: "The Color Purple"
September 17, 2018
From Book to Broadway: The Timeline
Nearly 20 years after the novel was published, Walker was approached by producer Scott Sanders about adapting her book into a Broadway musical. Walker was initially reluctant to this idea and took some convincing from Sanders that it could be an amazing concept. After some time, she gave her consent and it took almost two years to assemble a creative team. It was important to Sanders that this team included artists of color and female artists as it would best capture this story. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother) penned the book for the show, with music and lyrics by Stephen Bray, Allee Wills and Brenda Russell; Gary Griffin signed on as director with Donald Byrd choreographing; music director extraordinaire Linda Twine also joined the creative team. The production gained another producer in Quincy Jones who composed the music for the 1985 film, and had its out-of-town tryout in 2004 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. The following year, Oprah Winfrey joined the production team and in 2005, Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Color Purple debuted on Broadway. The production earned 10 Tony nominations in 2006 and LaChanze won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her portayal of Celie.
Alice Walker on "The Color Purple"
In a recent Huffington Post interview, Walker says, “What I would like people to understand when they read The Color Purple, is that there are all these terrible things that can actually happen to us, and yet life is so incredibly magical and abundant and present that we can still be very happy.”
Moving forward, the author wants the legacy of The Color Purple to stand as an expression of freedom in the black community.
“I want it to stand as an expression of the possibility of our absolute freedom. And especially our spiritual freedom. Because until the spirit is free it’s very hard to free any other part. And we desperately need to be freed from so many shackles,” she said.
Democray Now!'s Amy Goodman interviews Alice Walker about The Color Purple 30 years after its landmark publication.
AMY GOODMAN: And then you’ve got the amazing Shug Avery. I want to ask you about the title of your novel, but first let’s go to Shug, who mentions the color purple in her conversation with Celie.
SHUG: But more than anything, God loves admiration.
CELIE: Are you saying God is vain?
SHUG: No, no, not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.
CELIE: Well, are you saying it just want to be loved, like it say in the Bible?
SHUG: Yeah, Celie. Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.
ALICE WALKER: Yes, and she’s explaining to Celie that, you know, the beauty of nature is what reminds us of what is divine, I mean, that we’re already in heaven, really. It’s just that we haven’t noticed it, and we’ve been diverted by people who want us to believe whatever it is they are basically selling us. But if you pass by the color purple in a field and you don’t even notice it, why should you even be here on the planet? I mean, you should notice what is here, because it is wonderful and amazing and loves you back by its beauty and by its fragrance or however it can love you back.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did that title come to you, The Color Purple?
ALICE WALKER: Because when I was writing the novel, I lived way in the country in Boonville, California, and I went walking through the redwoods and swimming in the river and noticed that in nature purple is everywhere. And it’s interesting because we tend to think that in nature you would see more red, yellow, white, you know, all of those colors. But actually, purple is right there. And in that sense, it’s like the people in the novel. You think that they are unusual, that what’s happening to them is unusual, but actually it’s happening somewhere on your block almost every minute. All the trouble, all of the trials and tribulations of Celie are happening to people all over the planet right now.
The Major Motion Picture Adaptation (1985)
Original Broadway cast performing at the 2006 Tony Awards.
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