Three WNY theaters team up for 2023 ‘Purple Musical’

The Purple is a haunting and moving musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. A book by Marsha Norman with music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray , “Purple” depicts black women in rural Georgia in the first half of the 20th century as they struggled to survive and thrive. In the face of ever-present cruelty. It’s a story of resilience and hope, and women around the world care as much today as they did 40 years ago.

Purple marks the first collaboration between Second Generation Theater, Ushima Theater Company and Shea’s 710 Theater. Combining a diverse range of skills, qualifications, cultures and values, each company’s theatre professionals are on a mission to create inclusive and collaborative experiences while telling this important story to our existing and new audiences.

(Left) Michael G. Murphy (Shea Center for the Performing Arts), Kristin Bentley (Second Generation Theater Company),
Brian Brown and Maria Ta (Ushima Corporation)

The Ujima Company brings Lynn Nottage an artistic experience rooted in the African American experience and the arts of black theatre. For 44 years, Ushima has been performing plays you won’t see at any other WNY theater. Plus, they bring their connections to the beloved community they serve as Buffalo’s longest-running repertoire troupe. Founded by Lorna C. Hill in 1978, Ujima’s mission is “collective work and responsibility,” and its primary purpose is to provide work to Black artists and to develop aspiring artists through experience and the work itself.

Brian Brown, Managing Director, Ushima Corporation

Founded in 2013 by Kelly Copps, Kristin Bentley and Arin Lee Dandes, Second Generation Theatre creates premium theatrical experiences that appeal to a new generation of theatre-goers. With a proven track record in high-quality musical productions, immersive experiences and depicting a “feeling of being in a very special place, as if every performance was a unique gift” – Theater Talk Buffalo . SGT creates a collaborative and inclusive environment for artists and patrons. Led and founded by a woman, SGT is committed to continuing the legacy of Buffalo’s great theater for generations to come.

Kristin Bentley, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Second Generation Theatre Company

Shea’s 710 Theatre is a safe and nurturing space where theatre practitioners can come together to create meaningful productions. While Ushima Corporation, Second Generation Theater Company, and the Shea Center for the Performing Arts have three distinct organizational missions, we share a common goal of creating an equitable and transformative theater experience at the highest level of excellence. The collaboration between these companies to produce The Purple is an important step in the continued growth of the Buffalo theater community.

Theater changes, revealing human struggles and successes, and with our unwavering commitment to high-quality, innovative theater production, we’re proud to offer artists and audiences new opportunities to gather, be curious, and build our community.

– Michael G. Murphy, President, Shea Center for the Performing Arts

Michael G. Murphy, President, Shea Center for the Performing Arts

Each theatre is connected under a fair practice that we believe will result in extraordinary, exciting and exceptional productions for our audiences. Maybe Walker’s text is still teaching us how to treat each other and how to respect ourselves.”

– Sarah Norat-Phillips, Interim Art Director, Ujima Company

Maria Ta, Project Director, Ujima Company

Audition information will be announced by August 1, and auditions will take place in late August 2022.
For more information please contact or

Photography by Vincent Berbano and Addison Skoumek

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