Indiana State University Newsroom

“The Color Purple,” set for Nov. 13-16, is student-inspired, student-led

October 22, 2014

It's convenient Indiana State University student Kyle Guyton got his start in theater by helping with passion plays in his hometown of Indianapolis. His latest project -- "The Color Purple" -- is also his passion.

The senior theater major lobbied the leadership of his department (and others) until his vision to create an all-African-American production at the university became a reality.

"Last semester, some students approached me, ‘How come we don't do African-American plays?' I didn't know the answer to that," Guyton said. "I started researching some predominantly African-American plays, and I kept coming back to ‘The Color Purple' because of the text -- it's really rich -- and I thought this is what Indiana State needs."

The musical, which comes to the Dreiser Hall stage Nov. 13-16, is entirely a student-led production. Because there aren't enough African-American theater majors at Indiana State to cast all the parts, the students held a casting call, open to any major or faculty or staff member.

"The first day, there were about 20 people signed up, and I was like, ‘Okay, this is a huge cast, and we've only got 20 people signed up.' So that was scary," Guyton said.

The next day brought in even more auditions, resulting in a rich tapestry of talent -- some of whom had never performed on stage until now.

"We are working with some phenomenal students, from the design, from the production team elements, to the actual cast," Guyton said. "Every night, when we enter rehearsal, I take away a piece that just really blows me away, and I think the audience is going to enjoy it."

With so much talent, you'd expect it'd be difficult for anyone to steal the show ... and you'd be correct: It takes three women to do the job.

"My favorite part of the show? Anything that involves the church ladies. These three church women, I mean, they're you're typical church women: They gossip, they love to have fun, they dress crazy, but they're really sweet women," Guyton said.

The story's lighter moments are welcome breaks to its tougher scenes, which are a challenge to this cast of varying experience.

"The script itself deals with some domestic violence, and it deals with some intimate scenes that we kind of had to break down and do some character work and to talk about the text and what's going on. Then we'll go back put it on its feet and stage it so that they can get a feel and a better understanding of what's going on," Guyton said. "The domestic violence piece we're still working on because, you know, people don't really fight each other on the stage. A lot of them are really timid about, "Do I really hit him?" Well, you know, there's a certain way you can hit him or her -- in this case, it's her."

Despite the violence, when Guyton hears the words "The Color Purple," he says he immediately thinks of love.

"That's what the story's about. We make a full circle, and it's just love everywhere," he said. "It's a really inspiring piece that I think audiences will leave refreshed by. The music has this rich feeling to it and the dance and all the music and all the pieces of the show are really beautiful."

As the producing director, Guyton, whose specialty is design, is also new to his job. Good thing he's used to challenges. In the eighth grade, Guyton designed the set for a production of "Annie," and since then, he's worked as a stage and technical director, stage manager and lighting and sound designer.

"I believe in the performing arts as a whole. I think it has the power to change lives, a service like medicine and healing," Guyton said. "Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but I think it's really inspiring that a student can bring together a group of students to put together this really rich piece. It's almost breath-taking. I'm smiling now, because that's what I do in rehearsal. When they're singing one of the numbers and giving it their all, I just sit there and smile. There's nothing else I can do or say, because it's just that great."

So, is Guyton destined to see his name up in lights? Perhaps.

"One of my life goals is to help people express themselves through the arts, and one way that I would love to do and I plan on doing is teaching," he said. "That is, theatre, music, dance. I've seen how it transforms people's lives and I think it's awesome to be a part of. The feeling is indescribable. It's a beautiful thing."

Tickets for "The Color Purple" may be purchased noon-4:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10-Friday, Nov. 14 in the New Theater lobby, 536 S. 7th St. Tickets are $20, or admission is free with a valid student ID.

The production is sponsored by Indiana State's theater and history departments, the Office of Diversity, the Sideshow Musical Theatre Workshop, Student Government Association and Theta Alpha Phi.


Photos: -- Students practice for "The Color Purple" in Dreiser Hall's theater. -- Students practice for "The Color Purple" in Dreiser Hall's theater. -- Kyle Guyton

Contact: David Valdez, instructor, Department of Theater at Indiana State University, or 813-624-3034.

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or