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In the dim Loeb Experimental Theater, cast members of "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” don costumes of a spectrum of colors. Collectively, they form a visually rainbow-themed cast. In this current production of a genre-bending work by Ntozake Shange, Black C.A.S.T. aims to communicate a story of resilience.
“It’s a chance to celebrate the beauty of black women, and a chance to celebrate and even question what it means to be a black woman,” Emily N. Orr ’21, the show’s producer, said.
The play, which premiered in 1976, is a monologue-based production that explores seven African-American women’s personal stories of resilience in the face of difficult circumstances. These seven unnamed women, identified only by the colors they wear, take the viewers on a journey told through colloquially-spoken poems on topics ranging from complicated relationships, to experiences with rape and abortion, to finding self-acceptance.
The production does not follow a standard chronological cause-and-effect storyline, since Shange deliberately constructed this anthology-like production to be a choreopoem. A term invented by Shange herself to characterize “for colored girls,” “choreopoem” describes a theatrical production that intertwines poetry, music, and dance, allowing performers to let each form of artistic expression enhance the others.
First-time director Devonne D. Pitts ’21 says she has appreciated this inherent flexibility of the format of “for colored girls” and identifies it as a driving factor of the play.
“This is so much more free in its form and content, and tackling that meant I had to be as open creatively and artistically as I possibly could be to just let in whatever juices were flowing through,” Pitts said. “It allows for the audience, the actors, and anyone who touches this piece to weave their own way into the story as they see fit.”
Genesis N. De Los Santos ’19, who plays the Lady in Blue, explained that she has had an illuminating experience playing a character that grapples with some of the more difficult subject material in the play. “As an actor, I wanted to ensure that I was devoting myself to my character in a healthy way where I wasn’t sacrificing my mental health, but also still devoting myself to being vulnerable,” De Los Santos said. “This production has been a space where I have been able to find a sense of healing and closure with certain things.”
Demonstrating the strength of healing is a common thread for the actors in the play. For Evelyn M. Manyatta ’22, who plays the Lady in Green, the struggles explored in the play converge to a hopeful meaning, making the play deeper than just a painful revisiting of traumatic events.
“In the end, it shows the strength of people who have gone through this,” Manyatta said. “Our play takes them back and shows them, look, you’re here ー you’re standing, you’re strong, and you’re more than this intense middle part of the play. You are at the end of the rainbow.”
Ultimately, Pitts hopes that the play’s themes and approach will leave a lasting impact on the viewers. “This play has ups and downs ー it’s an emotional rollercoaster, but I think people will see it as a beneficial experience,” Pitts said. “My one goal is that they walk away feeling something ー having connected with the play viscerally in some way.”
“for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” runs March 29–April 6 in the Loeb Experimental Theater.
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