The Rogers Revue

The Entertainment Capitol

Bianca Horn: A Force within The Color Purple

11 min read

On today’s edition of THE INTERVUE, The Color Purple is making its round across the great land and right now, its here at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre until August 26th. My guest today is a unique triple threat in the world of theatre. A graduated of Southern Methodist University, she is the understudy for Shug Avery, part of the amazing 3 person greek chorus and she is also the dance & fight captain. Not only that, I know we will have a great story to tell about Bianca Horn

Tell us about your role in The Color Purple, and how long have you been in this current production?

We function as a Greek chorus. There’s three of us, and we kind of help start the story. We welcome you in. We help narrate the story; give the audience a bit of information about these people, the house, the characters, the principal characters, and we start telling stories themselves. We are a sassy group of three ladies. There’s a lot of comedic relief that comes from us. I loved being a church lady. We kind of say everything you’re thinking and wanting to know everything that’s happening in the story. I joined the production for the national tour. We started rehearsals September of last year, and we are closing out here and DC.

Oh nice, so you are ending with us! That is pretty good! Now, I feel honored that I’ve actually seen “The Color Purple” and this is the last stop of your tour. That is pretty exciting.

Yeah, we’re really excited. We’re here for a whole month and we get to enjoy the theater, the city, the people in it. We’re really excited.

Well, I’m definitely excited, and I love the fact that when Brendan hinted to me who I was going to be interviewing and he said, “you are going to enjoy the chorus”, and I said, “really?” And then, after the chorus, I was like, “oh yeah, I definitely enjoyed the chorus.” You guys really set the tone of “The Color Purple”.

(laughs)

You made us laugh; you made us wonder; and you were right, you definitely said what all of us were thinking in the audience.

(laughs) Well, I love the show. I remember when I saw the original production back in 2005. I remember after seeing L.B. Collins I said, “Lauren, one day, I just want to be a church lady or Shug Avery.” And on this forum, I ended up being a church lady that covered Shug Avery, so…I live in the best of both worlds.

Yes, you are. And speaking of which, like you, I actually also watched the original production of “The Color Purple.” I watched it back in 2007, and here we are in the revival of it. And I’d like to know, are there any subtle differences between what we both saw a decade ago to what we’re about to see at The Kennedy Center?

Absolutely. I was lucky enough to see the original and to see the revival, because I have several girlfriends who were in the production. The original production reminds me of “Coming to America” meets “The Lion King”. The story was still there, but it was beautiful; it was susceptible; it was full of color. There was an actual bathtub and Shug was injured on. She was laying over it. There was a tree for a period scene under the visual aspect of that show, which was really breathtaking, which was vibrant. And this production really stretched all of that away and leaves you with the core of the story and who these people are, and it’s beautiful in its simplicity. People like to compare it to and having witnessed both.

You really can’t compare them because they have different takes. The director was expressing this one story in very different ways. I remember we did a talk back and a patron asked if our version had more dialogue, and we actually told him about forty minutes had been cut off of our version. But because all of you are forced to see are the people onstage, we have, I think, one costume change in the whole show.

Our director, John Doyle, really gives us the tools and the confidence to see the characters, understand the storylines without the pizzaz so you can really get to know these people, see their humanity and see yourself thought that and the simplicity of that is purely breathtaking.

Absolutely, and it’s definitely a great change, because when my friend and I saw “The Color Purple” many years ago, we noticed those changes, and we felt that this production is the better of the two, so I definitely applaud you for being a part of this wonderful production.

Thank you! I’m so blessed to perform in this show. I just love it.

Excellent! I wanted to know—because I was reading through your bio—that you are also the fight captain and the dance captain too. And for those who do not know, can you tell us what is a fight captain and what is a dance captain?

Yes, so a fight captain in our show, we have a lot of physical things that happen. There are slaps, there are falls, there are whips, there are snaps. And these are all things that can provide risk, so each week, we have site calls, where we make sure we run the fight sequences, we make sure everyone—there are techniques to falling, to slapping, to the character mysteries that every day and every week that it is getting done so that no one gets hurt. When I was in college at Southern Methodist University, that was a part of our program. We did a lot of stage combat as part of the Shakespearean work. So we did sword fighting, and things of that nature. And one day they’re like, “oh we need a fight captain,” and I was so excited that I get to use this part of my craft that I rarely get to use because people don’t look at me and think, “oh, she knows how to fight or want to do stage combat”.

So, that’s what a fight captain does. We make sure that everyone on stage knows that we are sticking to what was originally choreographed by the person who set the fight. Now, a dance captain is the person who helps maintain the integrity of the show in regards to rocking and movements, especially in the big numbers. Everything is about spacing and if things aren’t done appropriately, a person could get hit with a chair. So the dance captain basically helps hold the integrity of the movement that was set during rehearsals with the help of the stage management. We do rehearsals, we do clean up rehearsals. The dance captains sit down and watches the show and notates, and helps everyone maintain the integrity of the show. I actually wasn’t the original dance captain. J. Daughtry, who recently left us to join the national tour of “Miss Saigon”.

Oh wow!

He was the original dance captain. He’s pretty impressive and kind of wonderful. He was our dance captain to start off before. He was actually a swing for this production of “The Color Purple on Broadway” so he knows the show very well. He covered about every male character in the show except for Mister. When he shot this new show, I was promoted to dance captain with his help and with stage management, I had to learn the show and figure it out, so it was really exciting.

Well, that’s pretty good. You are definitely a unique talent, because I’ve never interviewed a dance captain, nor a fight captain, so…

I’m a package deal for you!

Yes, you are. (laughs) So, tell us what was the moment you realized you wanted to pursue a career in acting and singing? What was that moment?

I am originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti and English is my second language. I speak Creole when I’m with my family. That is my first language. Growing up, my family wanted me to speak English and speak it well. So, I had teachers, and with the help of my family, they brought me to oratory competition, which really helped with understanding language and diction and the more I did it, the more I just loved words and storytelling. I sang in church, grew up in church, so I always loved music. I didn’t know anything much about musical theory at a young age, but I knew I loved music and I loved words. My sister told my mom, “this might be a thing that she can do”.

I was placed in the performing arts program in middle school and in high school. And I just fell in love with it. I remember there were times in A.P. program in high school—because I also loved literature and— and was thinking about becoming an attorney or something else and I remember the movie “Sister Act,” and Whoopi saying, “if you woke up every day and you can’t think of anything else but this, then this is what you’re supposed to do.” I remember praying about it, praying it away, thinking, “oh, maybe I’ll do both. I’ll do English and Theater.” And there’s something about the arts and acting and singing that is religious and freeing and therapeutic for me, and I love sharing my art with other people.

I think of art and our craft, our society and ourselves. It’s a romance that keeps circling around itself. Whenever I feel exhausted or empty, I’ll perform a practice cycle. You get on that stage, you look at that person dead center in the eye and you are relieved and refreshed again. It happens every night; it happens every day. I just feel so lucky that I get to live out my passion.

Absolutely, especially touring across the country. I understand this is your second national tour. You were with Hairspray not too long ago, and I want to know what is your favorite part of touring across the country?

Actually, I have two favorite parts. So, I love, one, sight-seeing. So, in every city, I make a list of things I want go see; places I want to go eat, and I try to enjoy the city as much as I can and take it all in. I always look on Instagram and Facebook because I know people who don’t travel like this and don’t get to experience this and I’m lucky enough to do it and to do it twice tomorrow. So I love sharing my experiences with friends and family. The second part is friends and family. I’m an actress, so my friends are all over the place. Some performing, some not, and so, that part about touring, when you reconnect with high school friends you haven’t seen for over a decade. We have lunch or catch up online. It’s just amazing. There’s this guy in our cast, Gavin Gregory, he actually, in Chicago, met up with a few cousins he hadn’t seen in almost forty years!

Wow!

That is—yeah, that’s the magical part about being on tour. You get to make connections with the people you love; people you haven’t ever thought about. I even saw college classmates I haven’t seen since graduation. It’s just been really rewarding in that way. You get to go across the city and people come back into your life.

Well, that’s true. You’re right; that is the magical thin g about touring across the country. Now, speaking of things to do in each city, did you have a list of things to do in our nation’s capital?

I do. I am trying to visit every museum. I have already visited the Holocaust museum. I’m going to visit the African American museum this Thursday when my husband flies in tomorrow.

We are going to visit a few together. I love running. I have actually run a half marathon and a few other races, and I recently ran the National Mall last week and just witnessed all those..I never been to DC. Just to see the grandeur of all these buildings and the monuments. More along those lines. I’m definitely going to go explore.

Well, I’m glad that you’re in D.C. And I’m glad that you got a chance to explore, but you’re definitely going to enjoy the National Museum of African American History & Culture. I will tell you it’s fantastic. You’re going to have a wonderful time.

I can’t wait. I’m actually planning on seeing I two times, because someone told me you can’t get through it just once in one day, so you have to do multiple tours. So, I have to be emotionally ready to see it. I’m so excited!

Well, the person who told you, that is true. No matter what Smithsonian museum you go to, you have to make at least two trips to get the full experience. I definitely agree with him. I have one more question for you, and it is: what can fans who have never seen “The Color Purple”—the play—or those who have read the book—what can they expect of this production?

Expect to see a woman who is downtrodden; who is abused; who is made to feel broken; not enough, emerge from those ashes whole, complete and restored, and that is something we can all appreciate together. And we see this one character’s humanity. We all have and some kind of loss or trauma and a reminder of those things that have hurt us. We can become better for it. It is a beautiful story. It’s a story we can all connect with. People have come to see the show, they weren’t talking in the beginning, and by the end, they were holding hands. It’s a story for a community. Its brings us together as a country. You don’t want to miss this. Don’t miss it at all!

I have to agree, especially since the Kennedy Center has brought out the best of Broadway to our nation’s capital, and “The Color Purple” is one of the top plays I have ever seen at the Kennedy Center, and I’m glad I was able to see not just you perform, but this amazing cast. In fact, I was telling my friend this was one of the very few times I ever cried at the end of a play. That’s how emotional it was for me.

Yes! (laughs) I think on some days I do this show—I think we’re about to go on our 320thshow, or somewhere around there.

Wow!

And there are days I look at the audience and can see the emotion. I can see they get the storytelling; they got the message of Alice Walker’s beautiful work and it has us choked up, because we are connecting that way. We both understand how magical the last 2 ½ hours have been, so we are just as emotional as the audience member is.

Since you mentioned a few moments ago that you like to post your travels and your running on social media, where can we find you?

You can find me on Instagram. Please follow me @BiancaHorn14. I post daily. You can see our adventures and shenanigans backstage. You can also go to my website, BiancaHorn.com. And you can always see what I’m up to, what my new projects are.

Don’t miss Bianca and the rest of the cast in The Color Purple at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, playing until August 26th. Tickets are available through kennedy-center.org