Will ‘The Color Purple’ Raise More Money for Itself Than New Orleans Homes?


TheColorPurpleJust as the point of my post on the cultural and political alignment of the Broadway revival of Hair with the National Equality March, scheduled for Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C. wasn’t meant to knock it, only to raise questions about scope, the cultural and political affiliation of the national tour of the musical The Color Purple with a terrific and worthy effort to rebuild New Orleans is a net plus for the show, for musical theater and obviously for New Orleans.

The background on this — and for the debate question, below — is the following press release, received last week courtesy of publicist Nicole Capatasto at the Hartman Group:

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This August marked four years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States and there are still over 14,000 families seeking housing in the greater New Orleans area. Therefore, The Color Purple is launching a fundraising campaign to build as many houses as possible by the time the show arrives for its run at the newly refurbished Mahaila Jackson Theatre from Dec. 1 – 6, 2009.

Starting with this week’s engagement in Chicago at the Arie Crown Theater, Sept. 2-6, the remaining 2009 presenting cities of the National Tour will join the effort by allowing The Color Purple to ask for audience donations at each stop along the route. The Color Purple is partnering with a local New Orleans’ organization, the St Bernard Project, a grassroots, volunteer-based nonprofit that rebuilds homes in less than 12 weeks for approximately $15,000 each.

To kick off the fundraising campaign, the show’s producers, creative team and Alice Walker announced today that they have collectively pledged to pay for the rebuilding of the first three houses for this initiative. The Color Purple‘s goal is to build many more homes with funds raised in the cities of its fall national tour.

The Color Purple is honored to be part of the first theatre season in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. Since our show is so much about triumph over adversity, we would like The Color Purple to give something back to the people of New Orleans,” said Lead Producer Scott Sanders. “We love the idea of The Color Purple putting families into new homes for the holidays this year.”

The St. Bernard Project is a community-based nonprofit organization headquartered in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, whose mission is to remove barriers for families who wish to return to their homes. To date, utilizing volunteer labor and donations for building supplies, St. Bernard Project has rebuilt 200+ family homes and is currently working on 35 more. Homes are completely rebuilt in about 12 weeks at cost an average of $15,000 per house.

“We are thrilled to partner with The Color Purple to solve the housing crisis in the New Orleans area. Together we will be able to help hardworking families get back home,” said Liz McCartney with the St Bernard Project.

Nominated for 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, The Color Purple opened on Dec. 1, 2005 at the Broadway Theatre. The national tour began in May 2007 in Chicago and continues to tour through 2010. It is based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the moving film by Steven Spielberg. It is the unforgettable and inspiring story of a woman named Celie, who finds the strength to triumph over adversity, and discover her unique voice in the world. With a joyous Grammy-nominated score featuring gospel, jazz, pop and the blues, The Color Purple is about hope and the healing power of love.

Chicago AEG Live Arie Crown Theater Sept 2 – 6
Greensboro AEG Live War Memorial Auditorium Sept 8 – 13
Atlanta AEG Live The Fox Theatre Sept 15 – 27
Cincinnati Broadway Across America DeVos Hall Sept 29 – Oct 4
Rochester NAC Enterprises Auditorium Theatre Oct 6 – 11
Schenectady Proctor’s PAC of Schenectady Proctor’s Theatre Oct 13 – 18
Birmingham Broadway Across America BJCC Concert Hall Oct 20 – 25
Orlando Florida Theatrical Association/ Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre Nov 3 – 8
Norfolk Broadway Across America Chrysler Hall Nov 10 – 15
Jacksonville Florida Community College Artists/ Times-Union Center Nov 17 – 22
Clearwater Ruth Eckerd Hall, Inc. Ruth Eckerd Hall Nov 24 – 29
New Orleans Mahalia Jackson Theatre Dec 1 – 6

For more information on St. Bernard Project go to www.stbernardproject.org. To follow the fundraising effort in your city, to donate money, or to follow the progress of The Color Purple houses being built in New Orleans, visit www.colorpurple.com.

Here’s the question: How much of an impact on box-office will this effort have? And if it does have an impact, is it fair for the producers, creative team and Alice Walker — who, I realize, are pledging approximately $45,000 toward this effort out of their own pockets — to limit The Color Purple‘s donations strictly to what they raise via pass-the-hat?

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