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'The Color Purple' to return to Morgan State stage 11 years after its first run

An archive photo from Morgan State University Theatre Arts Program

Journey Burris, Danielle Linkins, and Nia Burstonwith The MSU Spokesman

Morgan State University’s Fine Arts Department will present a soul-wrenching debut of “The Color Purple ” musical at 10:00 am April 11 in the Gilliam Concert Hall inside the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center.

From April 11 to April 14, the play’s cast intends to capture audiences with their adaptation of Alice Walker’s award-winning novel. The play returns to Morgan’s stage and marks the 11-year anniversary of its original debut on Murphy’s stage.

Tyrone Stanley, director and choreographer for the production said, “These women all have a story that will result in you looking at your own family — sisters, aunt and mothers — and understanding the power that is in the makeup of a Black woman.”

Set in the 20th-century South, “The Color Purple” chronicles the life of Celie Johnson, a young African-American woman. We follow Celie from her journey as a young girl to womanhood as she navigates severe hardships but experiences triumph through her resilience, discovering love and her voice as a woman.

The narrative will delve into a rich tapestry of experiences and multiple journeys as the tales of several characters’ lives encourage audiences to reflect inward.

“They’re excited to do something so close to their own personal lives, but also with characters that look like them, and have stories close to [the] narratives of their parents and grandparents,” said Stanley.

Brandon Gaines, who plays the character Mister said it was difficult to portray but he overcame that by thinking of himself as a conduit for the emotions and story.

“I’ve had a person in my life that’s a Mister so I kind of got that experience watching those experiences in life,” Brandon Gaines, who plays the character Mister, said. “He’s a tyrant. He’s really a [controlling] kind of guy… kind of very, very mean. And it’s totally different from my [personal] character.”

One of the standout songs spectators can expect is “Mister’s Song (Celie’s Curse).” Gaines said its lyrics resonated with him deeply and caused him to reflect on his personal feelings of having “to live up to … people’s expectations a lot.”

Janie Hughes portrays Celie and said she hopes, “that people can be left with inspiration and with something in their heart that gives them time to reflect about their life because there’s a lot of reflection moments.”

The letters exchanged between Celie and Nettie still appear in the play to highlight the “resilience of hope,” and “to never give up on each other,” said Stanley. The letters were part of Morgan’s original production of the play, so Stanley made sure to keep them as an homage.

“There is love. There is lust. There is insecurity. There is pain. There is projection all throughout this — so my goal is for people to be like, ‘do I do that?’ ” said Hughes. “Let me go within and really sit with that and see how I can better myself. Because I feel like this is a living story … even if you don’t relate to the actual story of it, there’s something in it that we can all relate to.”

According to Stanley, a bond developed between the cast members — who were both students and local talent — regardless of their skills or backgrounds.

“Seeing performers who had never been on stage before, blossom into these actors that look like they’ve been seasoned … I love to see [their] growth not just as a performer but as a person,” said Stanley. For more details, visit play’s website.