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‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf’

Cast of “For Colored Girls,” a Frankie Darcell production. / COURTESY PHOTO

By Puakea Olaisha Anderson

Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Radio personality Frankie Darcell is both producer and director for a Detroit-based production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.”

Darcell has brought 11 women together to interpret the Ntozake Shange choreopoem, which made its debut in the 1970s. Two shows are scheduled for Oct. 14 at Wayne State University’s Community Arts Auditorium at 3 and 8 p.m.

The characters, representing different colors of the rainbow, including brown, address themes that run through the lives of “colored” girls such as longing, hope and love. The play, written by Shange, was first shown in 1975 and has since become an African American theatre classic. It has been a Hollywood film and both an off-Broadway and Broadway production. The play is considered a seminal work for Black feminists.

“This was written in 1972 and here we are in the 21st century, as women, dealing with the same issues,” says Darcell, who believes the complex issues brought to the fore by the play are important to discuss to improve the lives of women and girls. “We carry all of our stuff as little girls into our lifestyles as women.”

Darcell says “For Colord Girls” is an opportunity to empower, “so we can be better women for ourselves and the girls we are raising.”

She says her production will defy any preconceived ideas or past experiences with Shange’s work.

“The writer (Shange) allows the directors and producers to bring their own experiences to the production. This piece has been done by white women in West Virginina (who) added their own life experience,” she says.

Darcell’s production features two 16-year-olds, Jaela Seals and Phallon Foxworth. Delores Harris will sing.

“I think there are talented people who deserve an opportunity to be on the big stage,” Darcell says. “The people I have cast are professional.

“For Colored girls has a reputation because it has been around for a long time but this is a production for men, women, children, girlfriends and families through the voices of these women,” Darcell says. “Whatever you have seen, thought, heard — this is not that.”

Shange, who was born Paulette L. Williams, moved to write after a broken marriage her first year in college and ultimately tried to commit suicide. In 1971, Paulette L. Williams changed her name to Ntozake Shange. In Xhosa, Ntozake means “she who has her own things” (literally “things that belong to her”) and Shange means “he/she who walks/lives with lions” (meaning “the lion’s pride” in Zulu), according to Shange’s biography. Shange’s poems have been an inspiration to women all over the world.

Shondra Tipler, who plays the “Lady in Blue” for Darcell’s production, first performed this play 20 years ago for her high school.

“Strength and confidence is what I hope women get from this play. I want Black women to know that they are strong and powerful,” Tyler says. “Being a single parent is a struggle, but I have a strong community base.”

The takeaway of the play is really important to the cast and Darcell.

“Keep it real, keep it real, being real, stop holding things in is what I hope that women get from this play,” says Madelyn Porter, who plays the “Lady in Green.”

For more information about the play and tickets, you can contact Brownpaperbags.com or call 313.433.8384.

Contact Puakea Olaisha Anderson at puakeaa@yahoo.com

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