Ntozake Shange wrote For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, the self proclaimed choreopoem, in 1975. It tells the story of several women of color whose stories run the gamut from the trials of date rape to the tribulations of virginity, and everything in between from physical abuse to infidelity.
This choreopoem/play becomes a movie in theatres next month. Tyler Perry directs. Oprah Winfrey produces.
Having now read the play, I can see why Tyler Perry directs the film. It is written in the same vein as Tyler Perry’s own movies and plays. Shange wrote the predecessor to what would become Tyler Perry’s now infamous plays and films. And yet For Colored Girls, the play, manages to transcend thirty five years on the shelf with its use of language to set the place, time and culture as well as its ability to make its audience smile and contemplate.
The language is strong in For Colored Girls, with use of the n word and the antiquated use of ‘colored’. That fact alone can make a person think this choreopoem has no relevance to today’s woman. However, in this instance the language gives tone. It gives shape, color and size to the struggle of a generation to understand and love themselves when not much else in the world told them they should. That same language sets the time, place and culture thirty five years ago.
In addition to its use of language, the choreopoem also possesses moments that put a smile on my face and reflection in my heart. I can not help but smile at the verse “if Jesus cdnt play a horn like shepp/waznt no need for colored folks to bear no cross at all”. The text tells me that this particular character rather enjoyed ‘shepp’ playing the horn because in her mind there was no point in going to Heaven if that music wasn’t there. The play ends on the most beautiful note of contemplation—“this is for colored girls who have considered suicide/but are movin to the ends of their own rainbows”. It ends with a glimmer of hope or as I like to call it the proverbial ‘white picket fence’, even if the fence needs a few coats of paint.
The play sets out with the intent of giving a voice to the story of women of color. Inadvertently, “For Colored Girls" casts a spotlight on today's need for a “For Gay Teens who have considered suicide when the rainbow is Enuf” play, among a number of others.
With all of its pros, the play’s title can be off-putting but it deserves a read because it tells the story of not only women of color but women in general. The stories cut across racial, ethnic and color lines. “For Colored Girls” deserves 4 & 3/4 stars out of 5.