“The stage is in darkness. Harsh music is heard as dim blue lights come up. One after another, seven women run onto the stage from each of the exists. They all freeze in postures of distress. The follow spot picks up the lady in brown. She comes to life and looks around at the other ladies.”
These stage directions start Ntozake Shange’s famous play, a choreopoem of live poetry, dance, singing and music. “For colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” was first performed at a Berkeley “woman’s bar” called The Bacchanal in 1974 with a cast of five and an audience of 20. By 1976, audiences of 6,000 per week experienced it on Broadway.
A new cast from SPECTRUM Queer Media will perform it at Mills on Thursday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in Little Lisser. The event is subtitled “a transformance and direct action” and will raise funding for the Black Student Collective, aiming to “uplift the plight of missing Black girls and women (of all genders).”
In Shange’s words, it’s “the words of a young black girl’s growing up, her triumphs and errors, our struggle to become all that is forbidden by our environment, all the is forfeited by our gender, all that we have forgotten,” in the printed version’s introduction.
Shange describes herself as a Black feminist and is the prolific author of 14 plays, six novels, five children’s books, and 19 books of poetry including “Wild Beauty” in 2017.
“For colored girls” is a quick read at 64 pages and is available in print at the Mills’ F.W. Olin Library, along with at least six more titles by Shange.
Tickets to the Mills performance are a $15 suggested donation, with no one turned away for lack of funds. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the performance is from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Higher donations are appreciated and the organizers ask those who cannot attend to still make a donation. More information is on Facebook and at SpectrumQueerMedia.com. Purchase tickets at forcoloredgirls2018.eventbrite.com.