Jay Prock has been a huge fan of “The Color Purple” since he saw Stephen Spielberg's 1985 film as a teenager. When the stage musical based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel opened on Broadway in 2005, Prock wasted little time in securing tickets.
“I hadn't seen anything quite so powerful,” said Prock, executive director of the Poteet Theatre. “It was like I couldn't breathe or move. I knew then that I had to direct it someday.”
That long-anticipated opportunity finally became a reality in March 2011 when Prock obtained the rights to the Tony Award-winning musical. The Poteet Theatre production of “The Color Purple” opens Friday and continues through April 1.
In preparation for directing “The Color Purple,” one of only a handful of musicals that feature an all-black cast, Prock put the Fats Waller revue “Ain't Misbehavin'” on the Poteet's spring 2011 schedule. While that production turned out to be a success, Prock still worried about casting of “The Color Purple.”
“We had three rounds of auditions and ended up seeing 150 people,” Prock said proudly. “Still, I was concerned about being able to cast the roles of Celie and Nettie. I had to find people who could not just sing the roles, but who could create that much-needed chemistry between the two sisters. I wound up casting two people who were best friends in college. They already had that chemistry before they came in to audition.”
One thing Prock had few worries about was communicating his vision of the popular musical to his cast. This epic story had been imprinted on his memory for quite a few years.
“Because of my passion for the story, I had been directing the show in my head for a long time,” Prock said. “I knew exactly what I wanted to see happen. It's a show about how one woman was able to break some very horrid generational cycles.
“Celie's journey goes beyond color. It doesn't matter if you're white, Asian or African-American. We all have been hurt at some point in our lives. This is a show that teaches you that forgiveness is possible.”
Interest in the Poteet Theatre's production of “The Color Purple” has gained momentum since the show was first announced. Prock said numerous church groups have called requesting tickets to see the musical. He's even anticipating having to add performances.
“I hope people come out of this show with an appreciation for the life they have been given,” Prock said. “We don't always like the things that happen in our lives but we can come through those experiences with strength and hope. With God, all things are possible.”