'The Color Purple' opens Friday with the largest Black cast in Springfield theater history

Two organizations dedicated to amplifying local voices are hosting a musical this month that is breaking record after record, starting with the largest Black cast in Springfield theater history.

Springfield Contemporary Theatre and the Mosaic Arts Collective open "The Color Purple" on Friday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at The Historic Fox Theatre, located at 157 Park Central Square. The musical will show Feb. 10-12, 16-19 and 23-26. Evening shows begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows begin at 2 p.m.

In addition to the musical's casting, this is the first local production of "The Color Purple." It is also the first collaboration between the two organizations, the first Springfield Contemporary Theatre production held in The Historic Fox Theatre and the largest production yet for the theatre company.

While only 17 cast members are scripted, Springfield Contemporary Theatre and the Mosaic Arts Collective's production of "The Color Purple" features 27 Black cast members, according to Amanda Snead, associate director and choreographer.

More than 45 people auditioned, which came as a pleasant surprise to the founders of the Mosaic Arts Collective, who have been wanting to put on the musical locally for nearly 20 years.

"We talked about it ('The Color Purple') so much, especially when the original (musical) came out in 2005," Nki Calloway, the production's director, said. "We all listened to it, loved it and we all wanted to be a part of it. We just didn't have the ensemble to pull it off back then. I don't think it was on anyone's radar."

Snead and Calloway founded the Mosaic Arts Collective along with Keegan Winfield in 2022. The non-profit's mission is to provide marginalized groups in the Ozarks with the resources needed create a more diverse arts community.

When the two organizations began to discuss the possibility of "The Color Purple" coming to Springfield, they jumped at the opportunity, Calloway said.

"The Color Purple" was first released as a novel by Alice Walker in 1982, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983. The book was later adapted into a film in 1985, starring Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover. The musical adaptation was released by Marsha Norman, with music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, in 2005.

The story follows 14-year-old Celie, who is forced into an abusive marriage in rural Georgia in the early 1900s. Over the course of 40 years, Celie encounters repression and heartbreak, but she also makes a close group of friends who inspire her to find her voice.

Visual art exhibition open for First Friday Art Walk

The Mosaic Arts Collective is hosting "Homecoming," a visual arts exhibition featuring five Black artists, on Friday, Feb. 3 between 5-9 p.m. at The Historic Fox Theatre.
The Mosaic Arts Collective is hosting "Homecoming," a visual arts exhibition featuring five Black artists, on Friday, Feb. 3 between 5-9 p.m. at The Historic Fox Theatre.

In addition to "The Color Purple," the Mosaic Arts Collective is hosting "Homecoming," an art exhibition featuring the work of five Black visual artists: Ernie Bedell, Bishop Cortezz, Justin Loudermill, Shon Cele Rainey and Live Smith. Ceramics, mixed media and painting are among the mediums that will be on the display.

The exhibition opens during First Friday Art Walk on Friday, Feb. 3, free to the public between 5-9 p.m. inside The Historic Fox Theatre lobby. Catering will be provided by Mama G's Kitchen, B&T Baklava and 417 Cocktails.

Following First Friday Art Walk, "Homecoming" will remain available for viewing for "The Color Purple" ticketholders.

"I really began to think ... how powerful it is that we have this all Black cast, the largest Black cast ever, and that we are having it right there on the Square," Winfield said about naming the exhibition. "Our goal for Mosaic (Arts Collective), in general, is to provide a home for marginalized and diverse communities and be able to say welcome home, welcome back. This is reclaiming that space for us."

Following the Thursday, Feb. 16 and Sunday, Feb. 19 shows, post-show discussions with the cast and crew will be held for community members.

How to buy tickets for "The Color Purple" in Springfield

Tickets for "The Color Purple" can be purchased online, at bit.ly/3Jw5hwR. Admission is $35 for adults, $32 for seniors and students, $30 on opening night and $12 for children ages 12 and under.

For Thursday evening performances, Springfield Contemporary Theatre hosts "Pay What You Can." These tickets are available on the evening of the performance one hour before the show begins. Minimum ticket payment is $1 per ticket for cash payments and $5 for card payments.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: 'The Color Purple,' visual art show open for First Friday Art Walk