Fields stars in Goodman’s ‘Crowns’ with other Southlanders
By Betty Mohr firstname.lastname@example.org June 27, 2012 3:58PM
Felicia Fields, of Blue Island, plays Mother Shaw in Goodman Theatre's "Crowns."
◆ June 30-Aug. 5
◆ Goodman Theatre,
170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago
◆ Tickets, $29-$88
◆ (312) 443-3820;
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:10AM
Felicia Fields has been featured in many sterling parts.
There was the 2005 Broadway musical production of “The Color Purple” for which she received a Tony Award nomination for her portrayal of Sofia (played by Oprah Winfrey in the movie).
Also, she starred in 2011’s production of “The Wiz” at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Ind.
Fields, of Blue Island, is in the 10th anniversary production of “Crowns” at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, playing a role that to which she said she can really relate.
“It’s a part that’s very close to home. I’m finally old enough to have the wisdom to play the grandmother in the show,” she said.
Written and directed by Regina Taylor (best known for her role as Lilly Harper in the TV series “I’ll Fly Away”), “Crowns” debuted a decade ago at the Goodman.
The new production still chronicles a coming-of-age story with gospel music that runs through to present-day hip-hop, but Taylor has made a few changes to some scenes and dialog.
Fields is joined in “Crowns” by two other Southlanders: Jasondra Johnson from Calumet City and Marketta P. Wilder from Riverdale.
The musical begins in Chicago’s Englewood community where Yolanda, a young girl, is grieving over the brother she loved. He was shot and killed.
Wanting to protect Yolanda from violence, her mother sends Yolanda down south to live with her grandmother.
Fields plays the grandmother who makes a difference in Yolanda’s life. The grandmother is very spiritual and goes to church every Sunday.
All the women work in the field and cook during the week, but on Sunday work stops and the women go to church. They always wear hats to church, which they call their crowns.
“Going South mirrors my own growing up,” Fields said. “When I was young, I used to go down South every summer.
“I remember, as a kid, our family staying in Louisiana where I saw chickens walking around everywhere.”
Fields said at first Yolanda doesn’t know what she can learn from the slow-paced, boring South and from the older women in her grandmother’s circle.
But the young girl finds a new resilience in being with her grandmother, and Yolanda realizes she has a connection to her ancestors.
The old people still remember the past and what they went through. They give the girl a history lesson that helps her deal with her life in the present.
“I had a similar relationship with my grandmother,” Fields said.
“I remember how my grandmother would go to church with her friends every Sunday and how I would join her. But things have changed.
“My grandmother died, and so have many of our family members in the South. Since my father passed away, our family doesn’t go down South anymore.
“Now, we only go down South for funerals.”
Fields said she wanted to be a schoolteacher, but destiny had other plans for her.
She began singing in church, following in the footsteps of her grandmother who sang and her mother who also could belt out a song.
People who heard Fields sing in church said she had something special and encouraged her to try to out for musical theater.
Fields said she’s happy she followed their advice because her singing and acting career has flourished.
“After I became established in the Chicago area, people told me I could go further in my career by moving to New York or Los Angeles. But whenever I left Blue Island, I became homesick,” Fields said.
“I have a nice little house in the community where I feel peaceful and safe. My family also lives in Blue Island, so all the important people in my life are right here.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned over my life, and a lesson that stands out in ‘Crowns,’ is how much we need family. I’m so grateful for mine.
“People that don’t have family are lost.”
Betty Mohr is a local freelance writer.