The Women Behind ‘For Colored Girls’

Tyler Perry got the last word when it came to For Colored Girls, but powerful black women have played integral roles in the play's journey from stage to screen.

Image 1
  • Ntozake Shange

    Ntozake Shange

    As a writer and performer in San Francisco in the 1970s, Shange wrote and produced the first production of her choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

    Captions by Lauren Williams

  • Trazana Beverley

    Trazana Beverley

    The acclaimed production would travel from San Francisco to the Broadway stage, with star Trazana Beverley (on the left, pictured with Jennifer Holliday and Mary Alice) winning a 1977 Tony Award for her performance.

  • Patti LaBelle

    Patti LaBelle

    The star lent her famous voice to an American Playhouse TV version of the play in 1982.

  • Alfre Woodard and Lynn Whitfield

    Alfre Woodard and Lynn Whitfield

    Not as famous yet? A young Alfre Woodard and Lynn Whitfield made small appearances in the 1982 television special at the beginning of their careers.

  • Whoopi Goldberg

    Whoopi Goldberg

    Although Whoopi Goldberg would later appear in Tyler Perry’s 2010 adaptation, back in 2008 she executive-produced a Broadway revival of Shange’s play. Unfortunately, the poor economy would doom the production, which was shut down before it opened.

  • India.Arie


    Too bad for India.Arie that Goldberg’s production shut down — the R&B songstress was set to star in it.

  • Jasmine Guy

    Jasmine Guy

    Broadway isn’t the only place to stage a play. Jasmine Guy directed a production starring Nicole Ari Parker and Robin Givens during the summer of 2009 in Atlanta.

  • Nzingha Stewart

    Nzingha Stewart

    It was Stewart — a music-video director — who first optioned Shange’s play and wrote a script, but then Tyler Perry came along. The rest is history: Her script was scrapped in favor of Perry’s, but she does get an executive producer credit on the film.

  • Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    She supports the film now, but Hollywood insiders have reported that Oprah Winfrey initially disapproved of Tyler Perry as the movie’s director. She reportedly came around after helping Perry with his script. Coincidentally, Perry listed Winfrey as one of his dream cast members when his project was still in development.

  • Beyoncé and Alicia Keys

    Beyoncé and Alicia Keys

    Both Beyoncé and Alicia Keys were also on Tyler Perry’s short list of dream cast members. Fans were in an uproar that more-accomplished actresses weren’t on his radar.

  • Mariah Carey

    Mariah Carey

    Tyler Perry didn’t end up casting Beyoncé or Alicia Keys, but he did get his pop princess in the film — sort of. Mariah Carey was slated to star, but she would have to drop out for health reasons. Thandie Newton replaced her.