for colored girls / for black boys
March 3-5, 7:30 p.m. and March 5, 2:30 p.m.
Adams Pool Theater
Directed by Rachel V. Bird ’13
Produced by Sesheta B. Mwanza ’13
“& being a woman & being colored is a metaphysical dilemma / I haven’t conquered yet,” recites the Lady in Yellow, played by Chelsea C. Grant ’14 in the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s new staging of “for colored girls / for black boys.” The production is a combination of Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuff” and its unofficial response, Keith Antar Mason’s “for black boys who have considered homicide when the streets were too much,” and seeks to shed light on conflicts of gender and race.
First-time director Rachel V. Byrd ’13 says, “although this is not every black woman’s story, the play sheds an unapologetic light on issues that plague the African-American community exponentially more than other races.”
This is heavy stuff; themes of love, incarceration, and rape run through the show, which consists of a series of poems with associated movements recited by a group of nameless men and women. First adapted by Jon E. Gentry ’07, the script intersperses male and female perspectives to provide a unified view of black hardships. “Even though the experiences seem impossible, they are very applicable now, even 40 years later, and thus important to understand,” says Linda I. Ugbah ’12, who plays the Lady in Blue.
The cast faces the difficulty of conveying difficult themes to students who grew up in very different environments. Byrd is quick to stress, though, that the show is not only for those who have lived the black experience. “The title is more of a courtesy—something for black actors to be a proud of—but that doesn’t translate to something exclusive.” Far from it, she wants everyone to be able to take something away from the show. “We have to push boundaries of comfortability to build awareness,” Byrd said.
Adds stage manager Jeremiah J. Cross ’11, “my professor in [African and American Studies 10: “Introduction to African American Studies”] told us that there are 40 million ways to be black, and I think that we’re working with that since our cast is represented by the Caribbean, Africa, and the United States—the black experience is shared, but variable.”
Byrd wants to use the production to reach out to the Harvard community and educate them about what some of their classmates have been through. “Cry, laugh, be vulnerable. Come learn,” she says.