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'The Color Purple' star Didintle Khunou says acting is a lifelong craft

Didintle Khunou has recently concluded performing on arguably one of 2018’s biggest theatre productions, 'The Color Purple', where she played the lead role of Celie.

Didintle Khunou on 'The Colour Purple' at the Joburg Theatre. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - South African performer Didintle Khunou says she believes an actor must always be in training to grow and become stronger no matter what they have accomplished and how long they have been doing it.

“It's a lifelong craft.”

Khunou began working as a professional screen actress in 2014 while studying towards her dramatic arts degree at Wits University.

She has performed in a number of television productions including Single Galz and Mamello.

Khunou has recently concluded performing on arguably one of 2018’s biggest theatre productions The Color Purple where she played the lead role of Celie.

The Color Purple musical was her first lead role in a production of this scale.

About the character, she said: “Celie is the character the story is centred around. The story begins with her as a young adolescent in Georgia uneducated and browbeaten. She faces abuse from her father, is separated from her sister Nettie when she's sold to her 'husband' Mister. Mister continues the cycle of abuse in her life. She then meets Sophia and Shug Avery who teach to stand up for herself. This is a powerful story about the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst adversities and still rise above it all a champion."

EWN: What was the preparation you put in to get ready for the production?

Khunou: The preparation involved the foundational work which consisted of research. I studied the life experiences of African-American women living in the south during the early 20th century. I also read the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker - which was literally like my Bible; all the information I needed to know that was specific to the character Celie was found there.

I researched Alice Walker and learned a bit about her life as aspects of The Color Purple were based on her personal life experiences and that of the women around her in her childhood. I also watched the film adaptation with Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah and Donald Glover.

Once I received the script of the musical and the sheet music, I learned them both with the help of a singing coach as I'm not a professional singer and she taught me all the technicalities of singing such huge musical numbers.

I'm a very intuitive actor, so naturally, I never let go of the script until the final week of performance, even if I know the words. I do this because I find that the work we explore in rehearsals is just the tip of the iceberg so I keep digging for deeper meaning and more layered choices even after the show opens to the public.

EWN: The Color Purple was welcomed and appreciated by audiences and on the closing last night it got a very long standing ovation, how did that make you feel?

Khunou: I was vibrating on high levels of thankfulness and gratitude. I was so glad that we were able to communicate the powerful intentions Alice Walker had when she wrote The Color Purple.

I was humbled by the generous spirit of the audience and proud of myself for courageously exposing the deepest most hidden parts of myself to tell Celie's story truthfully and authentically.

The show has developed me spiritually and as an actor and it reminded me of my magnitude. A definite highlight of my career and hopefully this is just the beginning.

EWN: How was it like acting alongside such a strong cast, anyone, in particular, you wanna name?

Khunou: I'd have to name all of them. Every single one of these performers taught me a thing or two about the craft of acting and storytelling. Even our resident director and his guidance expanded my perception of the work I do. I've never worked with a cast so ready to support each other, that is what makes us all strong in my opinion.

We were generous with ourselves and even in our moments of doubt we remained focused and remembered our purpose was to tell the story with truth. None of us were above the story and/or each other and that's what I will miss about this cast. We became a family.

EWN: Now that the show is over, what’s next?

Khunou: I'm inspired to create my own content and tell my own stories through film while doing TV and theatre in future. I'm inspired to travel and share my knowledge about my craft while expanding my skill set and I will continue training.

I believe an actor must always be in training to grow and become stronger no matter what you have accomplished and how long you have been doing it. It's a lifelong craft.

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