France Davis as Sophia in The Purple

‘Purple’
until 9th ​​October
Signature Theater
4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, VA
$70-108
Sigtheatre.org

DC likes to claim that singer Frankie Davis is its own. Now we can again.

Davis has returned to DMV to lead a dramatic arts program for a new charter school and wow audiences in Timothy Douglas’ Signature Theatre production “The Color Purple.” Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, it tells the story of Celie (Nova Y. Payton), a victimized teen deep south of Jim Crow, Found salvation through courage and grit growing up.

Davis plays Sealy’s one-time champion, the gutsy Sophia, a black woman who won’t give in (a role Oprah Winfrey memorably portrayed on screen).

“I grew up in California, but I was born in Washington when my parents were students at Howard University. I came back to Howard a few years later, so artistically speaking, I started my career here,” 43 year-old Davis explained. “I started singing at old school gay clubs like Edge and Wet – that’s how I made some extra money in college. I owe DC a lot”

She made national headlines when she was kicked out of the second season of American Idol in 2003 after some topless photos surfaced online, a “scandal” that would be odd to read today. But that’s old news. Davis has since performed “Rent” on Broadway, completed national tours of “Dream Girl” and “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, and played Henry in “The View Upstairs,” a film about UpStairs Off-Broadway musical of Lounge arson kills 32 patrons at a gay bar in New Orleans. Additionally, she performed at the Blade’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2019 and many other LGBTQ events.

“‘The Color Purple’ is a show I’ve always wanted to do, perform with my old friend Nova, a beautiful soul and a real talent to make it even better,” she said.

washington blade: Sophia is very powerful. Are you related?

Davies, France: There is a sense of beauty and vulnerability that other characters don’t have at first glance because Sophia is so powerful.I think it’s reflected in my own life [she laughs]. Recently, I had to stop being a “tough friend” offstage – sometimes doing just one thing is too much.

But strength is important. I love how Alice Walker created it with this book – it lives on in the musical version – a beautiful story about sisterhood and how women must change when they come together to support and love The power of your own life and the world around you.

Knife: Walker was also an activist – civil rights, women’s rights, Palestinian self-determination, and more. Your presence as bisexual can be described as political. Are you an activist?

Davis: I am an activist. When I came out, not many black female performers came out. I guess it’s just me, Tracy Chapman and Meshell Ndegeocello.

Right now, people are kicking the door. I have a lot of pride. I used to be young. I fell in love with my “ex-husband” and wanted to respect that love and not be afraid to hold hands in public.

My father, a human rights activist, feared for my safety. I told him that if I had to lie, I wouldn’t be safe. In the end, he really surprised me. He sees my ex as another daughter. They did hiking trips and various activities without me. This makes me a little nervous. [Laughs.]

Knife: Walker depicts the relationships between many women: sisters, friends, lovers.

Davis: Very accommodating. For me, reading this book at a young age was the first time I saw two black women in love, before the book was dramatized. It was very impactful, especially since I consider myself a two-way street.

Additionally, Walker provides a stark contrast between the shy, earthy Sealy and the glamorous blues singer Sugar Avery. [played here by Danielle J. Summons], showing both ends of women who have survived sexual trauma. In their love for each other, both Celie and Shug find a healing middle ground. As a rape survivor, I didn’t miss that part of the story.

Knife: Is the show what you want?

Davis: there are more. I dream at night lyrics. I love the music of singing composer Brenda Russell. Sofia’s song “Hell No” turns from anger to begging Celie to leave her abusive marriage to Mister.

It’s strong in different ways. After rehearsing the Sophia beating scene, I needed to have a session with my therapist. Signature takes great care of us, provides intimate coaching and advocates for self-care. This is a special production.

Part of me being French is healing by playing Sophia.

Knife: Does Sophia have a happy ending?

Davis: In a way, but not necessarily the one I would choose. In my opinion, the happy ending will be when she ends up with Harpo [played by out actor Solomon Parker III] squeak with his girlfriend [played by nonbinary actor Tẹmídayọ Amay]. That was my personal bisexual happy ending.

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