Finding strength: Ritz Theatre starts strong with ‘Color Purple’
by Erin Williams
Special to The Star
Oct 14, 2012 | 4826 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Myiesha J. Duff performs as Celie and Tai-Kristin Smedley as Nettie in ‘The Color Purple.’ Photo: Stewart Edmond/Red Mountain Theatre Company
Myiesha J. Duff performs as Celie and Tai-Kristin Smedley as Nettie in ‘The Color Purple.’ Photo: Stewart Edmond/Red Mountain Theatre Company
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When she’s not teaching third grade to her students in Tuscaloosa, actress Myiesha J. Duff can be found in a different kind of classroom: the stage. The Birmingham native is starring as Celie in the “The Color Purple,” which this week opens the fall season at the Historic Ritz Theatre in Talladega.

In the role, Duff transforms in front of the audience’s eyes from a scared, insecure teenager who endures abuse and emotional turmoil into a woman who is able to stand on her own two feet — and love in a way she never thought was possible.

Duff prepared by watching the 1981 movie and reading Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. “I learned that Celie and I had both been through a turbulent relationship with God due to the people and situations that occurred in our lives,” she says. “Through this role, I was given the opportunity to see the hand of God at work in my life and find absolute truth in the fact that ‘all things work together for the good of them that love God and are the called according to his purpose.’”

As she readied herself to take the stage as Celie for a second time (the first being with the Actors’ Charitable Theater in Tuscaloosa), she discussed what draws her to the stage, the pre-show ritual she can’t do without and how Robin Williams serves as a source of inspiration.

The role of Celie is very complex. She begins in the play as a teen and grows into middle age, all while facing numerous trials and tribulations. What about her transformation speaks to you the most?

Her ability to internally mature. She had every right to be upset with God because of the things that she had experienced, but rather than continue to live a life full of hatred, pity, shame and hurt, she chose life. She learned to forgive and was able to enjoy her life and learn to love again.

What is it about acting that intrigues you the most?

The one thing that intrigues me the most about acting is being able to bring characters to life. From a young age, I’ve been a sponge. I absorb people and their tendencies. It is nothing for me to sit around someone with an accent and soon after listening to them, find myself talking in the same accent. To finally have found a place where that is OK, acceptable and almost the norm gives me a place to be free.

Do you have any pre-show rituals or rules that you practice before you perform?

Prayer. It is imperative to me and for me to allow the Holy Spirit to operate fully in me as I perform. I realize that what I have and am able to do is a heavenly gift, and I dare not take that for granted. Sometimes, I’ll put myself (or my husband will) on vocal rest before a line of shows, just to save myself, and drink Throat Coat Organic Tea.

Whose acting inspires you?

Right now, I’m loving the fact that singer Jill Scott is taking on the acting world! I love to see singers cross over into film and TV successfully. I haven’t been inspired by one actor or actress in particular. One of my all-time favorite actors is Robin Williams. He always seems so free in his characters — like they are all locked up inside him, and when he finally gets to let one out, they are bursting with excitement.

What do you want audience members to glean from the experience?

Forgiveness is the key to internal liberty and freedom. When we learn to forgive those around us, we free ourselves from the bondage of hatred, bitterness and hurt. I believe that audience members will be able to find hope and faith again through this play and performance.

‘The Color Purple’

• The Historic Ritz Theatre, Talladega

• Shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

• Tickets are $23; $2 discount for groups of seven or more. Tickets can be purchased at ritztalladega.com or by calling 256-315-0000.
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