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An interview with The Color Purple's Sofia
An interview with The Color Purple's Sofia
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

The Color Purple December 16-28 The Paramount Theater

The Color Purple is a story that is well-known and well-loved - as it should be. The simple story of a poor, uneducated black girl who triumphantly rises above her abusive surroundings first made its printed appearance in 1982 and quickly won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature the following year. Two years after that, it became the classic (and Academy Award-nominated) film by the legendary Steven Spielberg. After almost two decades, it resurfaces in the form of a Broadway musical and again gets nominated (for the Tony Award) 11 more times.

The characters have remained true to their original bases. The love that spins between Celie, Nettie, and Shug are as present as the fear in the abusive Mr.______ and Pa. Standing clearly in a category of her own is the character of Sofia. Indomitable from her first appearance - be it on page, screen or stage - the character's strength shines through, giving inspiration and hope not only to the main character Celie, but to audience members alike.

The SGN caught up with Felicia Fields, who is recreating her Tony Award-nominated role as Sofia in the current touring company of The Color Purple.

Eric Andrews-Katz: How does The Color Purple, the musical, differ from the original book?

Felicia Fields: The musical is more geared toward the book than the movie. It holds truer to the descriptions of the book.

Andrews-Katz: How does the musical differ from the movie?

Fields: First of all, it has music, and it's not the same kind of music from the movie. It's more geared toward character redemption towards Mr. ____, and explores more the relationship between Shug and Celie.

Andrews-Katz: What kind of character is Sofia?

Fields: She's a no-nonsense, tough, edgy, sexy, sensual, resilient character. In some ways, she's somewhat the heartbeat of the show in the different ways that she inspires.

Andrews-Katz: What is Sofia's importance to [main character] Celie? Fields: In Sofia's own way, in a sense, she is trying to save Celie from the abuse she receives from Pa and Mr.____. Sofia sees the cycle that occurs and tries to stop it. She serves as an inspiration for Celie by being such a strong woman.

Andrews-Katz: What are the similarities and differences between you and Sofia?

Fields: There are not many differences at all. We're both no-nonsense and very direct. Every now and then, you get a character that you can identify with, and that's Sofia and me.

Andrews-Katz: Is there anyone you've used as a model for Sofia's strength? Fields: [Laughs.] Aside from myself? Actually, in church, there was a lady, Ms. Llewellyn, who I kind of used, with liberties, as inspiration. She was always outspoken.

Andrews-Katz: How does the audience react to your character?

Fields: Usually they are very much looking forward to her. Because of previous popularity, the book and the movie, people know that when Sofia appears, something is going to happen. That character is a character.

Andrews-Katz: What kind of feedback have audiences given you about your character?

Fields: They get very excited about the character and the audience usually gets very lively. In Atlanta, people were talking back to her, encouraging her from the audience. When I was on Broadway, people would come to the stage door and start crying on my shoulder, saying how they were abused and how they could absorb some of the strength from the character. I had no idea that it would have that kind of impact. It brings out a different sense of responsibility.

Andrews-Katz: How does the audience react to the violence portrayed by the men in the show?

Fields: They are still not very big fans of Mr._____, but the script is written so that there is a redemptive quality and he becomes more of a human being. The audience, along with Celie, can find forgiveness.

Andrews-Katz: When The Big O, Oprah, came aboard the project as producer, was any advice either sought or given on how to play the character?

Fields: Oh no! Producers don't talk to you [the actor] about the character. They'll talk to the director, but not specifically to you about the role you're playing. She was very encouraging - from the notes I received.

Andrews-Katz: In the show, your character is beaten down on so many levels. How do you decompress after a show from such an intense role? Fields: I walk through the grocery store or through a Wal-mart; it helps me relax. I'm always looking for a 24-hour grocery; most people won't go walking with me.

Andrews-Katz: Well, there are lots of 24-hour groceries and stores in Seattle. Fields: [Laughs.] Oh, don't tell me that! The Color Purple, the musical, opened on Broadway on December 1, 2005 and gave an impressive two-year run of more than 910 performances. Aside from being nominated for five 2006 Outer Circle Critics Award and winning three Theatre World Awards - first in 2006 (Felicia P. Fields and Elisabeth Withers-Mendes) and then in 2007 (Fantasia Barrino) - the musical was nominated for 11 Tony Awards.

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