Director Camille A. Brown, and members of the cast speak to theGrio about the forthcoming Broadway revival of Ntozake Shange’s famous choreo-poem.
Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has been inspiring and captivating audiences for nearly 50 years. Since its Broadway debut in 1976, Shange’s choreo-poem that chronicles the stories and pathways of seven Black women has been a source of empowerment and perseverance for generations of viewers and actresses alike.
The work has been adapted for film twice; first in 1982, starring Alfre Woodard and Lynn Whitfield, and again in 2010, starring Janet Jackson and directed by Tyler Perry. This April, for colored girls makes its return to Broadway. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award-nominee Camille A. Brown, the new revival comes at a time when Black theater productions have grown in New York City.
TheGrio spoke with Brown and the cast to speak about the new production, their connection with the Shange’s work, and the historical implications of the revival.
The production of for colored girls is at the Booth theater, the same venue where the original production of for colored girls took place in 1976. This current Broadway version finds Brown stepping into historic territory, marking her Broadway directorial debut, and much more.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 11: Director/Choreographer Camille A. Brown poses at a photo call during rehearsals for the revival of the broadway play “for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf” at The Collective Paper Factory Hotel on March 11, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images) Photo By Bruce Glikas Instagram: photo by @bruglikas /@broadwaybruce_ @gettyentertainment @forcoloredgirlsbroadway
“It’s the first time in over 65 years that a Black woman has directed and choreographed on Broadway, and the last woman to do that was Katherine Dunham,” Brown told theGrio. “So, there’s a lot of responsibility and honor that I have, holding that space of Ntozake’s legacy, but also holding the space of Katherine Dunham, too. It’s just really a tremendous honor.”
for colored girls has always been part of Camille’s life in some way. She first saw the infamous front cover in her aunt and uncle’s Brooklyn apartment as a child, but it was her mom who planted the words of the play into her psyche.
My mother would always tell me, and she still tells me today, ‘Don’t ever let anyone take your stuff away.’ And it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized that it was from this play that she had seen on Broadway,” Brown said. “Somebody almost walked off with all of my stuff is the poem that she references from that. So this piece has been a part of the fabric of my being since I can remember.”
for colored girls is part of many of the cast members’ lives for many years as well. Both Amara Granderson and D. Woods, playing Lady in Orange and Lady in Yellow, respectively, both called the work a “rite of passage” for young women. Okwui Okpokwasili, who plays Lady in Green, says that the piece blew her mind when she first read it many years ago.
“I loved the piece because I recognized the voices. I could hear women I knew, girls I knew in the poetry,” Okpokwasili said.
Each member of the ensemble feels the importance of bringing Shange’s piece to life for a new Broadway audience. “All of the people in our cast are so determined and so glad to be in the experience that we’re very much at all in this together, all with the same trajectory. So it’s really, really humbling and really great,” Granderson said.
“Being a part of such a legendary piece on Broadway, I feel a huge amount of responsibility,” said Stacey Sargeant, who plays Lady in Blue. “But at the same time, there’s a freedom in knowing that as long as we make it personal and stay honest, then I think we will all do our jobs well.”
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 11: Stacey Sargeant and Amara Granderson pose at a photo call during rehearsals for the revival of the broadway play “for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf” at The Collective Paper Factory Hotel on March 11, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images) Photo By Bruce Glikas Instagram: photo by @bruglikas /@broadwaybruce_ @gettyentertainment @forcoloredgirlsbroadway
One of the aspects that separate for colored girls from other stage productions is their format as, what Shange coined, a “choreo-poem.” With an innovative, singular combination of music, movement, and poetic monologue, Sargeant explained why it’s the perfect way to tell these ladies’ stories.
“I think inherent in Black culture there is a musicality for who we are. There’s a demonstratively physical aspect to us when we speak,” Sargeant stated. “It’s full-bodied. And so I think this piece being a choreo-poem is in alignment with that. And so to make it anything else, so it would be like the antithesis of who we are as a people.”
For Brown, choreographing for colored girls as well as directing, presented a new challenge. Particularly since she is coming off of choreographing last fall’s historic production of the New York Metropolitan Opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones.
“It feels like an exhale to me as a choreographer to lead with movement and side of texts,” Brown explained. “That space that [Shange] made for me and for other choreographers and directors who have come before me with this text I think is something that’s wonderful and it’s really is a true gift to dive into.”
The cast is thrilled to have Brown lead the production as director and choreographer. “I think it’s a joy to be with Camille in this space,” Okpokwasili said. “She really knows how to hold and protect community, to protect exploration. She brings a clarity of purpose and vision, but also an enormous generosity.”
Previews of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf begin on April 1. From there, the show will run for a limited 20-week engagement starting on April 20.
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The post ‘For Colored Girls’ cast, director speak on the historic Broadway revival appeared first on TheGrio.