What did the role of Felicia mean to you before the production start and did it change as you began to perform her role?
Felicia Farrell is a role that has such heart and spirit and depth. I knew it had great potential and identified with it immediately. And yes, the role did change as I began to work on it because the show itself had been in development, and during that time we (the creatives and I) just got clearer and better at the specifics of Felicia’s life, her arc in the play, and her presence in the story.
What did you personally take away from this play and from your role?
I take away the idea that you can’t help who you love. Love does change everything, even if it doesn’t stay in your life always. And there is beauty, dignity, and hardship in following what you know in your heart to be true.
Do you feel that in Felicia you were representing a rising music star with its challenges or more of an African-American woman, struggling to make it in the face of bigotry?
Both. Felicia is exactly both of those things and more. She’s a rising star, an African American woman fighting racism in pursuit of her career, and she’s also a young woman in love, and the twist is that love is inextricably bound to her state of being , her dreams and her passions. Juicy stuff!
What is your take on Felicia’s decision to develop her career and leave her mentor, Huey, behind?
I think Felicia does the right thing. I think it had to be done. And I think it is one of the hardest decisions she or any other woman who wants a career makes. Sometimes you must leave something to gain what is better for you, for your spirit, in the long run. And that is exactly what Felicia Farrell had do to. Also, her time in history made separation from Huey more necessary because there was not a widely accepted place for them in society.
How much was Memphis a show about music and how much was it a show about racism and intolerance?
MEMPHIS is a show that is equal parts about music and its power, about racism and intolerance, and about true love.
On and off stage, you are an African-American female singer. 50-some years later, how do you see the changes in the society and in the entertainment industry?
In 50 years I see women having to prove nothing to be treated as equals in society and the workplace. I see less sacrifice of our relationships, bodies and spirits for our personal dreams. I see complete understanding and support of our healthcare needs. I see a younger generation of women really understanding the battle that has been fought on their behalf and treating their minds, their bodies, and their gifts with greater respect and care. We are so very lucky to be woman in history right now. We have opportunities our foremothers only dreamed of. I want to see us living the legacy they’ve helped build.
You character and you personally have one thing in common: you persevered and saw success. For Felicia, it was being a star in the 50’s and for you it is being a star in the production of Memphis. Do you have any advice for people reaching for the stars in a similar fashion nowadays?
Go to school. Tell the truth. Keep your word. Handle your money.