After six years of living abroad, Apphia Campbell comes home for a role she’s wanted for years: Celie in ‘The Color Purple.’
Apphia Campbell fondly remembers when the musical adaptation of “The Color Purple” opened on Broadway. She was working as an actress in New York City at the time, and nearly all her contemporaries dreamed of playing the lead role.
The musical tells the lifelong struggle of Celie, a 14-year-old girl in the rural South, and Campbell says she related to the character’s ability to conquer her struggles and be true to herself.
“In this industry, it’s easy to focus on negative things, like rejection, but you just have to be yourself.”
Now, back in her hometown of Sarasota after six years of performing around the world, Campbell has the chance to make her dreams a reality at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.
Campbell might not have been ready for the role when the show first opened in 2006, but after her experiences abroad, she is now.
Wanting to see more of the world and challenge herself as a writer, actor and singer, she moved to China in 2009 to teach drama.
“I saw a quote from Meryl Streep that said, ‘To become a better artist, you have to see the world,’” she says. “It’s made me a better performer and a better person. It made me appreciate the little things in life.”
In 2014, her one-woman show about Nina Simone, called “Black is the Color of My Voice,” took her to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and she decided to live in Scotland full time.
But when Nate Jacobs, founding artistic director of WBTT, decided he wanted to produce “The Color Purple,” he called Campbell right away.
“She fits this role like a glove,” he says. “Anyone who wants to understand what WBTT is all about, they can look to her. She embodies everything this company is.”
Campbell has performed under Jacobs’ direction since she was 4, and she was a founding company member of WBTT in 2000, just after she graduated from high school.
She says she’s amazed at how much the company and Sarasota have grown since then, and she’s excited to be back in her hometown for this part.
“Celie is an amazing role,” she says. “I love the story of her overcoming all of this adversity to love herself. I think that’s a story everyone can connect with — loving who you are.”