A DC Dream Day With ‘The Color Purple’ Star Nova Y. Payton


In DC Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Nova Y. Payton is not one to shy away from intimidating roles. The DC theater veteran has played Effie White, the “Dreamgirls” character that won Jennifer Holliday a Tony and Jennifer Hudson an Oscar, multiple times on stage. She was to star in the Signature Theater production of “Mamma Mia!” as Donna, the role immortalized on screen by Meryl Streep, in 2020 before the pandemic hit. Last fall, she joined the cast of “Into the Woods” as the witch — a famous part inhabited by Bernadette Peters on stage and, again, Streep on screen — at the Zach Theater in Austin.

Next step for Payton: the role of Celie in “The Color Purple”, from August 16 to October 9 at the Signature Theater. After Whoopi Goldberg starred in the acclaimed 1985 film, LaChanze took on the role in the 2005 musical and Cynthia Erivo stepped in for the rousing 2015 Broadway revival, Payton will play the protagonist in the Alice Walker story on subjugation, perseverance, and self-discovery in the American South.

“How do you put your own stamp on something that was done so beautifully by amazing people?” said Payton, 42. “The only thing I can find is to be honest with it and find my truth in it and create my whole journey through this story. So it’s exciting to do, it’s a challenge — I like a good challenge — but also, at the same time, it’s kind of scary.

There’s nothing to worry about, of course, on Payton’s theoretical perfect day, which the Fort Washington resident spends touring the DC area with her 13-year-old son, Micah, and 4-year-old daughter, Minah.

I’m a mom of two, so I would start the day arguing with my kids, as I like to call them. My kids always have things to do, so the first thing I would do would be to take my daughter to her ice skating lessons at Tucker Road Skating Rink at Fort Washington. I’m not a coffee person — I’m more of a tea and smoothie person — so I would stop at Tropical Smoothie Coffee and get the avocado smoothie, with the spinach and kale pack and no turbinado.

From there, we would take my son to his basketball practice and then go to lunch. I’ve been thinking long and hard about my dream meal, and it’s definitely shrimp and grits from Coffee with milk and honey. It is so good. Another one of my favorites is Bob and Edith’s dinner, which I love because you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner, it doesn’t matter. If we go, I’ll make two scrambled eggs, hold the cheese, with turkey sausage and blueberry pancakes. I also wouldn’t mind a side of oatmeal with a little butter and cheese.

Then we would cut to National port for a walk in the area. There’s so much to do there – they’ve got it UniverSoul Circus recently, so I would take the kids there. Then I would drop them off at home, because I spent the day with them, and I would go out to enjoy the city center. I wouldn’t mind going to some museums, and I really wanted to see the Hirschhornso I would go there.

Then I would move on to Old Ebbitt Grill and get me a small platter of crab cake for dinner. Or I’ll go to the food truck Garlic sensations, which is incredible. You can get crab cakes, you can get fish and shrimp, you can get puppies, mac and cheese and green beans. I should definitely leave, so I’ll go to another museum – probably the National Museum of Natural History.

After that, I would really like to arrive early because the night downtown gets a bit crazy for me. So I would go home and do something outside with the kids before deciding on something to watch. I would let the kids – whatever the trick – choose. Minah will probably say “Sing 2” – she loves watching it and singing along to it, which is why we don’t really get to hear the movie! And Micah is really into “Stranger Things.” So we put one on and ended with a movie night.

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