Ntozake Shange’s revered choreopoem, ““for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” made a highly anticipated return on Broadway earlier this month. It originally opened in New York City’s Booth Theatre in 1976. Shange pioneered the term “choreopoem,” which combines elements of music, dance and poetry. “For colored girls” was groundbreaking as the first of its kind in the literary world.
Its return is historic for one particular reason: Tony-nominated choreographer Camille A. Brown, who is making her directorial debut with “for colored girls,” is the first Black woman to both direct and choreograph a Broadway production in 65 years. Brown is a Guggenheim Award recipient and known for productions such as “Once On This Island,” “Choir Boy” and “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” In an interview with Variety, she explained the significance of Shange’s work.
“This is a play that’s passed down between Black women. It was passed to me from my mother, who told me ‘don’t ever let anyone take your stuff away,’” she stated. “‘For colored girls’ is literally passed between women in that way, but it’s also a spiritual passing of information, love, vulnerability and sisterhood. The aspect of Black women coming together in a space to empower each other is something that’s necessary for me,” Brown said. “As Black women, there is necessity to our collectivity.”
Shange, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 70, first published the collection of poems in 1975; they would be transformed into a play just one year later. In 2010, “for colored girls” became a film written, produced and directed by Tyler Perry. The ensemble cast featured Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Thandiwe Newton and Tessa Thompson.