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Ntozake Shange’s Choreopoem “For Colored Girls …” Is a Passionate Elegy for African-American Women

"For Colored Girls ..." will play May 10-13 and 17-20 in the Murphey School Auditorium

"For Colored Girls ..." will play May 10-13 and 17-20 in the Murphey School Auditorium

Burning Coal Theatre Company and She-Cow Productions will present For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, a passionate elegy for black women everywhere penned by now 63-year-old Trenton, NJ-born African-American dramatist and poet Ntozake Shange (pronounced “en-to-zaki shong-gay”), on May 10-13 and 17-20 in the Murphey School Auditorium as part of Burning Coal’s “Wait Til You See This!” second-stage series. N.C. Central University Department of Theatre faculty member Karen D. Dacons-Brock will direct the show, and Emelia “Me-Me” Cowans and Sherida McMullan will produce For Colored Girls … for She-Cow Productions.

First performed in 1974 at a women’s bar near Berkeley, CA, For Colored Girls … was initially produced in New York City in 1975, and opened Off Broadway on May 17, 1976 in the Joseph Papp Public Theater as part of the New York Shakespeare Festival. The show won the 1977 OBIE Award Distinguished Production, plus the 1977 Theatre World Award for sometime PlayMakers Repertory Company guest artist Trazana Beverley as the Lady in Red.

For Colored Girls … made its Broadway debut, arranged and directed by Oz Scott and choreographed by Paula Moss, on Sept. 15, 1976 at the Booth Theatre, where it ran for 742 performances before closing on July 16, 1978. Nominated for the 1977 Tony Award® for Best Play, the show won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play (Trazana Beverley as the Lady in Red).

According to Burning Coal Theatre Company:

ABOUT THE PLAY: The piece, first performed in 1975, is a choreopoem, or a series of 20 separate poems choreographed to music, that weaves interconnected stories of love, empowerment, struggle and loss into a beautifully complex and truthful representation of sisterhood. The cast consists of seven nameless African-American women only identified by the colors they wear. Subjects from rape, abandonment, abortion, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence are tackled with unabashed, unapologetic and brutal honesty.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR: Karen Dacons-Brock is an adjunct professor of theatre at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). Professor Dacons-Brock is also a certified and licensed speech-language pathologist. In her dual role as theatre director/producer and allied health professional, she has directed numerous plays, presented papers and conducted workshops at international, national and regional conferences. She has been especially interested in finding ways to explore theatre performance in interdisciplinary settings in order to make positive changes in the lives of people everywhere. She has received a Meritorious Achievement Award for Excellence in Direction from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and was a 2008 recipient of the University of North Carolina Board of Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She has a BFA and MFA in Dramatic Art from UNC-Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. in Communication Disorders from NCCU.

ABOUT THE CAST AND CREW: Burning Coal board and company members Emelia “Me-Me” Cowans plays Lady in Red (Crowns, 1960, Gee’s Bend, To Kill a Mockingbird) and Sherida McMullan plays Lady in Blue (Crowns, Gee’s Bend, A Doll’s House). [The cast also includes] LaKeisha Coffey (Lady in Orange), Carly P. Jones (Lady in Green), Kyma Lassiter (Lady in Brown), Aurelia Belfield (Lady in Yellow), and Tara Whitney Rison (Lady in Purple). [Members of the show’s creative team include:] Cynthia Penn, choreography; Natasha Jackson, stage manager; Patrick Cox, assistant stage manager; JeMarl Kearney, wardrobe; Charles “Chuckey” Robinson, original music score; Professor Arthur Reese, set and lighting designer (NCCU).”

According to the play’s publisher, Simon & Schuster:

“From its inception in California in 1974 to its highly acclaimed critical success at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater and on Broadway, the OBIE Award-winning For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country. Passionate and fearless, [Ntozake] Shange’s words reveal what it is to be of color and female in the 20th century.

“First published in 1975, when it was praised by The New Yorker for ‘encompassing … every feeling and experience a woman has ever had,’ For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf will be read and performed for generations to come. [It is] a groundbreaking dramatic prose poem written in vivid and powerful language that resonates with unusual beauty in its fierce message to the world.”

In reviewing previous productions of the choreopoem, The New York Times called For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf: “Extraordinary and wonderful” and added, “Ntozake Shange writes with such exquisite care and beauty that anyone can relate to her message.” Toni Cade Bambara of Ms.magazine claims that playwright Ntozake Shange “Celebrates the capacity to master pain and betrayals with wit, sister-sharing, reckless daring, and flight and forgetfulness if necessary. She celebrates most of all women’s loyalties to women.”

The New York Post notes, “These poems and prose selections are … rich with the author’s special voice: by turns bitter, funny, ironic, and savage; fiercely honest and personal.”

And William A. Raidy of L.I. Press/Newhouse Newspapers writes, “Ntozake Shange’s extraordinary ‘choreopoem’ … is a dramatic elegy for black women with an undercurrent message for everyone. Its theme is not sorrow…but courage. Its strength is its passion and its reality….An unforgettable collage of one woman’s view of the women of her race, facing everything from rape to unrequited love…. Wisdom and naïveté go hand in hand. Wounds and dream intermingle; strong passions melt into simple courage.”

SECOND OPINION: May 4th WRAL-TV interview with Karen D. Dacons-Brock, conducted by Renee Chou:

Burning Coal Theatre Company and She-Cow Productions present FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF at 7:30 p.m. May 10-12, 2 p.m. May 13, 7:30 p.m. May 17-19, and 2 p.m. May 20 in the Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 students with ID, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except $10 Thursdays.

BOX OFFICE: 919-714-9712 or





Burning Coal Theatre Company:

She-Cow Productions: N/A.



The Play: (Simon & Schuster) and (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

The Playwright: (Simon & Schuster) and (Wikipedia).

The Director: (N.C. Central University Department of Theatre).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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