Ride The Story That Rules Your Audience

In 1997 Scott Sanders, formerly president of Mandalay’s TV operation, approached Peter Guber to help him secure the live stage rights for The Color Purple. As Guber had led the production parade for the movie, Guber called the book’s author, Alice Walker, and asked her to take the meeting with Scott.

Scott told Alice that he passionately believed in the project, and the film, and that there were even emotionally resonant stories in the book that now could be realized on stage through making this a musical.

Unfortunately, Scott failed to fully appreciate that the back story running Alice centered on the negative fallout from the film version. She told Guber later that though she’d taken an immediate liking to Scott, he didn’t seem to be aware that the black community’s reaction to the film had taken a major emotional toll on her. The black critics, seven years later, were still accusing her of colluding with “White Hollywood” and called her a sellout. “That’s the part that Scott didn’t know.” Alice later told Guber.

Had he known, he might have told a story that addressed those sensitive concerns. Instead, she told him no.

Fortunately, Scott was finally able to win her over through sheer conviction, goodwill, and persistence, reshaping his story to align with her interests. The show went on to be nominated for eleven Tony Awards, including best musical, and grossed over $100 million.