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Chicago actress Felicia P. Fields: Ultimate script is ‘word of God’

Actress Felicia P. Fields: “If you live your life a certain way, people will come to you because they’ll want the peace you have. I got peace, I got peace.” | Provided photo

Felicia P. Fields, 61, veteran stage actress, singer, Tony-nominated for Broadway’s “The Color Purple,” South Side native, grew up in a bustling Baptist congregation where her faith — and her career — took root.

Grew up “not far from Englewood,” then lived in Roseland, now in Blue Island.

“Been here all my life, never . . . thought to go anywhere else to live.”

Mother of two, grandmother of three.

Currently in “Lettin’ the Good Times Roll” at the Victory Gardens Theater.

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“I was raised at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church” in Englewood.

Fields’ late father was the pastor at a sister congregation.

“My dad didn’t start pastoring until we were adults, so it didn’t affect us the same way it did some children.”

Still, “you’re under the microscope quite a bit, and I’m in theater,” which some congregants “frowned upon.”

“My dad was born and raised in Louisiana. He lost his parents at a very early age. He was a hustler on the streets of New Orleans because he had to survive.”

Later in life, he “started out reading the bible in secret, and everything started to snowball.”

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She was choir director at her home church for more than 20 years.

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Felicia P. Fields (left), who portrayed Sofia in the Broadway musical “The Color Purple,” applauds Oprah Winfrey, who played Sofia in the movie version, during a curtain call after the Chicago premiere on May 3, 2007. Stu James (center) played Harpo. | AP

As a kid at Antioch, “I learned readings, and once a month we’d . . . have a big production on Sunday.”

Fields did dramatic presentations of poems by James Weldon Johnson, the late civil rights activist and writer, including “The Creation,” published in the 1920s, which begins:

And God stepped out on space,

And He looked around and said,

“I’m lonely –

I’ll make me a world.” 

And far as the eye of God could see

Darkness covered everything,

Blacker than a hundred midnights

Down in a cypress swamp.

“And that’s pretty much where I began . . . this whole theater thing.”

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“Rev. Wilbur Nathan Daniel was my pastor for most of my life . . . very strong, very domineering, charismatic. He was on the police board at one time . . . outspoken . . . once got stuck on the song ‘Jesus Can Work It Out’ . . . No matter what he preached, he’d come around to the song” and tell Fields to sing it at church.

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Going to church was fun for her and also meaningful.

“As you grow older, the scriptures and your relationship with God, as anything else, matures, and you begin to put stock into the value of what the bible explains to you.”

The bible is “like a handbook that will help you be better at . . . relationships, your marriage or your friendships.”

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“Everyone has a purpose here. So even being on Broadway, where I thought I was there to perform,” colleagues would end up in her dressing room, where she’d “minister” to them, in part by providing “good advice.”

“If you live your life a certain way, people will come to you because they’ll want the peace you have. I got peace. I got peace.”

Says she’s almost always at peace before going on stage.

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“I pray all the time . . . When I get a quiet moment, I try to have a conversation.”

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“I feel hanging with the right crowd is important.

“A lot of what’s going on” in terms of street violence today in Chicago “is people don’t have respect for their own mother and father.”

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Believes prayer should be allowed in public schools.

“Man wants to run his own situation. They’re not quite getting it right.”

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“The manual is the bible, and you can’t run a Zenith TV with a Magnavox guide. It ain’t gonna work.

“There’s only one manual, and that’s the word of God. And everything in it is going to tell you what you need to know. You might have to read it two or three times to get it.”

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Remembers one sermon that, over the years, has “kind of stuck with me.” It’s about how “worry is a sin . . . It helped me change my whole attitude . . . What’s supposed to happen is going to happen.”

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Face to Faith appears Sundays in the Chicago Sun-Times.

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