Inside SpeakEasy’s The Color Purple
Based on the book by Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Alice Walker, the musical version of THE COLOR PURPLE had its World Premiere at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 7, 2004. The Broadway production began its run on December 1, 2005, and earned 10 Tony Award nominations including a nod for Best Musical. The show has since launched three national tours, the most recent one in 2012.
Director Paul Daigneault
Since founding SpeakEasy Stage Company in 1992, Paul, who serves as SpeakEasy’s Producing Artistic Director, has produced over 100 Boston Premieres. Among his many SpeakEasy directing credits are: In the Heights; Xanadu; Next to Normal; Nine; Body Awareness; The Great American Trailer Park Musical; [title of show]; The Savanna Disputation; Jerry Springer – The Opera; The New Century; Some Men; Zanna, Don’t!; Parade; Almost, Maine; Caroline, or Change; Take Me Out; Company; A Man of No Importance; Bat Boy: The Musical; Passion; A New Brain; Violet; Songs for a New World; Floyd Collins; Jeffrey; and Love! Valour! Compassion! Paul is also on the faculty at The Boston Conservatory where he teaches musical theatre and directing.
What is THE COLOR PURPLE about?
THE COLOR PURPLE tells the story of Celie, an African-American women trying to get by in Georgia in the early 1900s. Having grown up in poverty with an abusive father, Celie is married off at a young age to an angry and unkind man, who separates her from her only true friend in the world, her sister Nettie. Celie is someone who has had every reason to give up: on family, on hope, and on love. But she has this indomitable spirit that shines through despite her hardships, and which helps her find her way in the world.
What attracted you to the project?
I have long been interested in THE COLOR PURPLE, but felt that its cast size and requirements (there were 34 people in the Broadway production!) were beyond the scope of a show we could comfortably and effectively produce. But then I heard about a production at the Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles – a tiny 99-seat house – where the show was pared down and performed with just 17 actors and a small orchestra. It’s an adaptation that focuses very much on the human relationships at the heart of the story, which are the stories I want to tell. The success and enhanced theatricality of that production essentially gave me the courage to tackle this beautiful show.
What are some of the challenges you face in bringing this show to the stage?
THE COLOR PURPLE will be SpeakEasy’s first time staging a musical in the Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion, which is almost twice the size of our regular home in the Calderwood – the Roberts Studio Theatre. So clearly there’s a difference in scope and scale that I will need to address in telling this story and filling the space. I’m also looking forward to working with my music director, choreographer, and design team to capture the rural south in the first half of the 20th Century and bring this show authentically to life.
Why will SpeakEasy audiences love it?
I love that the musical adaptation preserves the best parts of the book and combines them into a vibrant theatrical event. THE COLOR PURPLE incorporates the strengths of theatrical storytelling to bring these incredibly rich and complex characters to the stage. The show is both smart and heartfelt in a way that is certain to appeal to SpeakEasy’s audiences.