Poet/writer/teacher Ntozake Shange created her compelling choreopoem, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” in …
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Poet/writer/teacher Ntozake Shange created her compelling
choreopoem, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the
Rainbow is Enuf” in 1975, when it first played in California. By
1977 it made its way to off-Broadway and Broadway theaters,
attracting mixed audiences to its ultra-theatrical combination of
dance, music and poetry.
In Denver, it was produced many years ago by Cleo Parker
Robinson Dance, but a new generation is due to discover its
ultimate message of hope. (Director Reynelda Snell commented in an
emotional opening night talk-back after the show that Robinson had
come to visit the cast and ”pass the torch.”)
That message is especially appropriate as Shadow Theatre notes
the one-year anniversary of founder Jeffrey Nicholson’s death and
looks ahead to a promising future after a rough couple of
Five women, cast by the newly formed Afterthought Theatre
Company, present a beautifully-staged version of Shange’s 20 poems,
interspersed with music and movement. The production is directed by
company founder Reynelda Snell and choreographed by Lea Chapman.
Performances are through Sept. 19 at the handsome Shadow Theatre in
Hopefully, a repeat will become possible in the future. These
actors have obviously invested a more than usual personal
involvement in this piece about black women seeking a place in the
world. Each cast member — Snell, Shelley Mc Million, ZZ Moor,
Stephanie Hancock and Kenya Pollard — brings a distinctive voice
and style to the stage and Snell has blended them skillfully.
Lighting and blocking are well planned.
There are light moments and some wrenching passages such as ZZ
Moore’s sad “A Nite With Beau Willie Brown” and Kenya Pollard’s
powerful “Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff.” (The
latter poem has stayed with this writer for more than 25
None of the lines sound dated. They speak to all women and men
eloquently, although Shange is rough on men in a number of
Ntozake Shange (en-to-zaki shong-gay) was born Paulette Williams
in Trenton, NJ in 1948 and changed her name to Xhosa, the Zulu
language, words for “she who comes with her own things” and “she
who walks like a lion,” according to biographical information from
Snell. She graduated cum laude from Barnard, shedding a husband en
route (and attempting suicide) and entered UCLA where she earned a
master’s degree in American Studies. She has taught in California
and Texas, at CCNY, Yale, Howard and Harvard Universities, while
publishing plays, poetry and novels.
Hers is an American voice well worth knowing.
Tyler Perry has directed a Hollywood film version of this play,
cast with major black entertainers, which is due in November.
If you go:
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow
is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange, a choreopoem about and performed by
Black women, presented by the Afterthought Theatre Company through
Sept. 19 at Shadow Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora. Directed by
Reynelda Snell. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m.
Sundays. Tickets: $20 advance online; $25 at door; Matinee $15/$20.
PG 13. www.afterthoughttheatre.com.
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