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Theatre Wed Jun 16 2010

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf

Thumbnail image for COLORED GIRLS.JPG

Photo courtesy of: InnateVolution

Since its debut in 1974, Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has been regarded by many as the premiere story about the experience of women of color in America. Here, director Toma Langston talks about his modern adaptation of Shange's work, and how the story still resonates today.

Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf is probably one of the most popular literary works about women of color--why do you think this is so?

I think the poem--and each poem within it, is different and holds its own story. Each story is able to touch everyone and everyone is able to somehow relate somehow to the experiences that occur in the poem[s].

This "choreopoem" was written almost 40 years ago--yet it is still relevant and timely--why do you think it has held up so well?

I think it's held up so well is because it's unfinished business; it is kind of like telling the story and everyone getting the true meaning or purpose behind what the poems are really trying to say and what they're trying to prevent. Until we have everyone on the same page or same level, then there's always the need for the story to be told. Again, everyone can relate to the poems because they are instances and experiences that happen every single day. They happen quite often, not only to women of color but women, in general.

What approach did you take with your direction of the play?

Well, we tried to update it--we modernized some of the pieces to make them a little bit more relevant to today. In the original play, music from the 50s and 60s was used, but we decided to use music from the 90s to give it a different perspective. The whole point is to get the audience to realize that you can be your own individual and make your own choices. That's what the play is ultimately about.

Of all the concepts in the collection, was there one that particularly stood out for you?

Initially, when I started the rehearsal process, my favorite piece was "toussaint," but it then changed to "no more love poems" (1-4). Touissant has this childlike energy to it and I fell in love with that because it's all about imagination. When I started to dive into the "love poems" though, it was a discovery for me and for the performers, I think, that it's really about love and all the different kinds of relationships we have.

"For colored girls"is experiencing a resurgence, mostly due to filmmaker Tyler Perry's not-yet-released adaptation; however, his involvement is being met with some mixed reactions. What are your thoughts about this?

Again, this story is so lasting, and one of the things about Tyler Perry doing this film is I think it'll have the same effect the movie Precious did. I remember when I walked into the theatre for that film--it was everyone watching, not just African-Americans. I hope this is what Tyler Perry will bring to the film version of this.

That's always a good thing--to bring a story to a broader audience.

Yes, and definitely with the all-star cast he has--I mean--Whoopi Goldberg has a diverse following which I love. I am so glad she's doing the movie.

The casting of Whoopi Goldberg will sort of validate things, then?
[Laughs] Well, Whoopi wouldn't have signed on if it wasn't going to be good!

So, Tyler Perry's film adaptation will bring about more awareness of Shange's work.

Yes. And that's a great thing. I actually read something recently by Joseph Papp, who originally produced this show and brought it to Broadway. He basically said that when Ntozake [Shange] first came to him with the piece, she had this idea that it would only reach a certain amount of people and that hopefully those people would be women of color. After it gained momentum and there were then all types of people in the theatre, it was maybe a little too much for her. She took a break from the show, came back, and then realized the piece wasn't just about women of color--it was about women in general. So I think that's one of the reasons she allowed [Perry] to have the rights to do the movie because she believes in that vision that it can touch all women. I think that's what the film will do.

What message do you hope the audience takes away from the performance?

My theater company's mission is to create a theatrical experience that people will have dialogue about. I'm hoping that this show will create some dialogue in the community and that people will share more about their experiences and come to some point where they can relate to and fully understand each other. I think the more you understand someone who is different from you, the more you can develop an appreciation for humanity--even the good and the bad.

For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf opens at The Call, 1547 W. Bryn Mawr, on Thurs., June 17 through June 26; shows run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm (no performance June 24). Must be 21 and over. Tickets are $20; for more information, visit or call 312.513.1415.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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