Ten-year-old Chédra Arielle sat with her cousin watching the movie “The Color Purple.” While watching, Arielle would pause and replay a particular scene multiple times, studying the words and paying close attention to the way they made her feel.
Arielle will now join her first national theater tour as Sofia, in the musical “The Color Purple.” The show will have performances at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 and 25 at the IU Auditorium.
“It took me a few hours, but I memorized that monologue and I just loved it because she made my body fill up with so many emotions,” Arielle said.
The Tony and Grammy awards-winning show, based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, follows Celie, a black woman, as she navigates the American South during the first half of the 20th century. The musical features a blend of gospel, jazz, blues and ragtime music.
Arielle’s character, Sofia, is characterized as a strong female role throughout the show who helps support Celie throughout her life.
After she graduated from Florida A&M University, Arielle worked for 10 months and saved about $20,000 before moving to pursue acting in Los Angeles.
“For years, I didn’t get anything,” Arielle said. “But I made sure that I stayed in acting classes and that I was perfecting my craft.”
Arielle has now earned a part on the tour as her dream role after being captivated by the performances of others such as Oprah Winfrey, who played Sofia in the 1985 film adaptation.
Fellow Actress also embarking on her first national tour, Gabriella Rodriguez plays Squeak who represents an antithetical portrayal of Sofia.
“My teachers definitely pushed me to work on material that’s outside of my comfort zone and being a little more bold,” Rodriguez said. “I did not think I was even going to be considered for Squeak until there was a final callback.”
Rodriguez took time off for the tour following two years of studies at Point Park Universityin Pittsburgh.
“I think what I love the most about Squeak is that from the very beginning, she wants to be different,” Rodriguez said. “She just doesn’t really know how to do that and tries to go about it in the wrong ways by seeking affirmation and attention from the male characters.”
In turn, the show delves into the effect of gender roles and masculine stereotypes. Brandon Wright, who plays Sofia's husband Harpo, feels a sense of responsibility toward women both on and off the stage.
“I, both as Brandon and as Harpo, can use my masculinity to support the lives of women and fight for them,” Wright said.
The musical covers a storyline that spans over 40 years, following the lives of its characters through their late childhoods and into adulthood.
“I really enjoy the journey of the entire story,” Wright said. “Every time we set the stage from beginning to end is really exciting because we get to live through the telling of the story.”
Tickets can be purchased at IU Auditorium’swebsite and the auditorium box office. They start at $17 for students and $29 for general admission.