`Purple’ prose

Alice Walker, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple, is now looking for the color of excellence.

Last week at Oakland’s Skyline High School, Walker kicked off a Bay Area-wide essay contest in conjunction with the touring Broadway musical based on The Color Purple, which opens Oct. 9 at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre.

The contest is open to middle school and high school students and it involves writing a 500-word essay. The subject — selected by Walker — is “How I Changed My Own Life.”

The essays will be read by a Bay Area panel of judges who will select the semifinalists. Walker will then choose the winner. Nine semifinalists will receive a pair of tickets each to The Color Purple, and the winner’s essay will be critiqued by Walker, framed for the author and published on www.colorpurple.com. The winner receives four tickets to the musical and a signed copy of The Color Purple, A Memory Book of the Broadway Musical.

Essays can be submitted at www.colorpurple.com/essay or mailed to the Oakland Tribune at 7677 Oakport St., Suite 950, Oakland, CA 94621. Submissions must be received by midnight, Oct. 6.

Walker said she chose the theme of the essay contest because it relates to her novel. “I suggested `How I Changed My Own Life’ to inspire students to consider their own agency in choosing the life they wish to have,” Walker said. “Celie in The Color Purple changes her own life by learning to read and, later, to write.”

The contest kick-off was held at Skyline because LaToya London, who plays Nettie in the musical, is a Skyline graduate. The school, London said, “gave me the tools and confidence to pursue my dream of performing. It’s exciting for me to return here and talk to students about how a good education can open up a world of opportunities.”

For information about The Color Purple show times and tickets, visit www.shnsf.com.

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