'The Color Purple' coming to Naples: Interview with Felicia Fields

Kenita R. Miller (Celie), Felicia P. Fields (Sofia) and Lesly Terrell Donald (Buster) star in a scene from the first national tour of "The Color Purple." Paul Kolnik

Kenita R. Miller (Celie), Felicia P. Fields (Sofia) and Lesly Terrell Donald (Buster) star in a scene from the first national tour of "The Color Purple." Paul Kolnik

Artis—Naples

5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples, FL

— If you go see “The Color Purple” you’ll laugh and smile — and probably cry, too.

The musical, adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, tells the story of Celie, a young black girl who deals with terrible tragedies and must overcome them.

Steven Spielberg made the novel into a film in 1985, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey. The musical was on Broadway and is now on national tour.

Actress Felicia Fields plays Sofia in the production at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts. Sofia is a strong-willed woman who, like Celie, must overcome abuse. We spoke with Fields by phone while she was in Jacksonville, putting on the production there.

Daily News: How did you get into acting?

Felicia Fields: I got into acting as a fluke. I was working in church conducting the choir and singing and a couple came in. They needed someone to work on a project of theirs. In the process of working on their project, people heard me and asked me to audition for “The Wiz.”

Daily News: How did you get this role?

Felicia Fields: I’ve worked with the director (Gary Griffin) for about 15 years prior to this production. He and I were working on “Carousel” and I was in my costume for the technical run for the first time and I walked by the mirror and I said to myself, “I look like Oprah Winfrey in ‘The Color Purple.’ ” I walked on stage and I said “You told Harpo to beat me,” — a line from it— and he said “Well, if I ever do “The Color Purple,” I already have Celia … you can be my Sofia.” The first workshop was in Chicago in August 2003 and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Daily News: How did you prepare for it?

Felicia Fields: (It) was not very difficult because we actually believe in the same things very strongly, myself and the character. She is a little bit more exaggerated, but I certainly believe very firmly in what she stands for. ... As you get older in the character, there are different people who I’ve known through out the years that I can draw form their physical and emotional personalities.

Daily News: What does Sofia go through in the musical?

Felicia Fields: Sofia is a larger than life character. She is a very opinionated, strong-willed individual. ... She loves Harpo with all her heart but ... he is a person who takes on traits from his (abusive) father. ... All he knows is that he loves Sofia and the only way he learns about love is through watching his father’s behavior. She’s just a take-charge lady and ... she becomes a resilient character because she rises above whatever tragedies that she faces.

Daily News: What are the challenges in playing this role?

Felicia Fields: The biggest challenge in doing the character is you’re always compared to the Oprah performance. ... You have to make it your own.

Daily News: What does this story mean to you?

Felicia Fields: I started off thinking of this as a job. I don’t think of it that way anymore. I think of it more as a ministry. It is a character that helps give hope for people who are facing abuse, domestic violence. At the end of the show, if there’s one person who feels empowered by the performance, feels that they don’t have to take any abuse then the job is done.

Daily News: How does the story translate to the musical format?

Felicia Fields: There are light moments, which thank God there are, because its such heavy content. But music is not always fluff. ... There are messages, it’s not just entertainment. There’s dancing, there’s singing, there’s acting, it’s a full spectrum.

Daily News: What are the lessons?

Felicia Fields: It exposes so many things — incest, physical and emotional abuse — but mainly it is a story about love. Loving yourself, learning to love other people, learning to love who you are.

IF YOU GO

‘The Color Purple’

* When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009, through Dec. 13; 2 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13

* Where: Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples

* Cost: $79

* Information: 597-1900 or www.thephil.org

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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