Director Amina Robinson Discusses The Color Purple | Theatre Philadelphia
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Director Amina Robinson Discusses The Color Purple

Dec 12, 2018

By Julia Sims
Theatre Philadelphia Intern

Amina Robinson, local theatre artist and educator, is currently directing the award-winning musical The Color Purple at Theatre Horizon. After a second extension and constant positive reviews, a conversation with her has only reinforced that she was destined to direct this show. Amina credits the Temple University theatre program, her alma mater and workplace, for instilling in her a work ethic that prepared her for this journey. She also discusses how her beliefs concerning race and its impact on theatre have led her to tell this story.

“Thematically, the story is that of my life and the lives of the women who raised me.” says Amina.  “I am living The Color Purple 2018 edition.”

The Color Purple deals with the cyclical nature of racial discrimination that has been ingrained in American society. It is a system that fosters everything we do, including the art we choose to consume. “Racial oppression has not gone anywhere, sexism, abuse... all still very present.”  Amina lives in the intersections of race, class and gender that many of the characters do, and she believes that analyzing race and applying it to inequality in the theatre is the only way artists can begin to unravel the oppressive system.

She encourages these conversations in a class she teaches at Temple called Race On The Stage. Her students discuss their own racial experiences, how art can impact society, and how racial prejudice has influenced centuries of American theatre.  Amina asks questions such as, “are casting practices the final frontier of legal discrimination?”

She also discusses how white superiority seeps into art through many facets, especially through the lack of representation and cultural context. One of her fundamental teachings in class is the notion of “whiteness” being the norm, the standard, the mainstream. “We have a hard time fully believing in the intrinsic value of anyone's art unless it conforms to the ‘white or Eurocentric’ aesthetic.” This is a standard that our society has to unlearn, and that’s what Amina is working to do. “Racial inequality is at the core of who we are as an American society. Until we actively work to dismantle it, our theater and lives will remain…”

Whether in class or in the rehearsal room, Amina loves open discussion and listens to everyone’s ideas. She feels that Temple has helped her become a better theatre artist, because its students get to try a little bit of everything. “As a student at Temple, I learned to love and fully appreciate every aspect of theater. Temple loves the collaborative process”. Multi-faceted theater artists emerge from Temple Theaters, ready to take on the Philadelphia industry.

Many of the actors in The Color Purple are Temple Theaters’ alumni and even current students. Each night, they go on stage wearing costumes made by graduates of Temple’s MFA design program. The assistant stage manager, who helps keeps performances organized and on track, is also a Temple owl.  “My seeds were planted at Temple and continue to be nourished at Temple.” says Amina. She couldn’t be more proud of her entire cast and crew for exceeding her wildest expectations.

The proud alumni and professor hopes to leaves audience members feeling full and empowered after The Color Purple. “I hope people leave feeling like it is safe to shine their lights brightly, in any circumstance.”  

Knowing Amina, this wish is fulfilled. Her directorial debut at Theatre Horizon could not have fit her more perfectly.  “The characters are my family and friends. My experiences, navigating the American landscape, are but the effects of the life every character in this story has already lived.” Amina pays homage to Alice Walker’s novel by letting her personal experience influence her director’s vision and spirit for the show.

“While the circumstances may be different, I cannot ignore that my life prepared me to tell this story.”

The Color Purple runs now until December 23rd. Get your tickets at theatrehorizon.org!

Look out for Amina’s next show, 74 Seconds...To Judgement by Kash Goins at the Arden Theatre Company!