Somebody asked me today what to see in Toronto, and my answer was immediate: “ You have to see Djanet Sears new production of Colored Girls!”
There are so many reasons for this response.
To begin with, how often to we get the opportunity to see a work of such cultural and historical significance on stage? First performed in 1976, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf was the second play by a Black woman playwright to be produced on Broadway. This is the work that trumpets in a new era of writing by Black women poets and playwrights that would inspire generations to come. Indeed, Djanet Sears, director of the current production, credits For Colored Girls with inspiring her decision to become a theatre practitioner, and the legacy of this seminal work rings through the ages as it takes the stage under her able hands to wreck, rebuild, and bless all who have the good fortune to witness it.
Ntozake Shange dubbed her work a choreopoem, and with its deftly interwoven strands of poetry, dance, music, and theatre, no other term would do it justice. The work is a series of poetic monologues performed through word, music, and dance. Seven women, in seven colors of the rainbow, draw us through their devastating and yet profoundly celebratory visions of Black womanhood. The thematics of the play deal sharply and candidly with the complexities of gendered, racial identities, and through its multiple narratives on the nature of desire, it provokes difficult and damning portraits of the heteropatriarchal frames that bind these women in positions of abjection. But against such positions of subjugation, each woman’s story and voice ultimately calls out the chorus of seven to bear witness, and each deep wound heals with the laying on of hands.
This piece demands it all of each actress — dance, drama, an absolute willingness to lay bare what no other human being would dare… and this is what each woman brought to the stage tonight. Tamara Brown, Karen Glave, Ordena Stephens-Thompson, d’bi.young anitafrika, Akosua Amo-Adem, SATE, and Evangelina Kambites work with such rare ensemble power, that the audience shifts seamlessly through each monologue, worn with the ache of the raw reality of each story, spellbound with the fierce power of each performance. Astrid Janson’s “barely-there” set, consisting of a single, black, curving ramp rising into a black void, was the absence of light and color against which the resplendent colors of the rainbow women could dance, and weep.
Toronto is lucky to be able to celebrate this performance, and as the last chant of blessing echoed through the hall, of one accord, the audience leapt to its feet to give the performers a thunderous standing ovation which seemed to last forever. At a time when Black bodies are under siege in new and terrifying ways, when infants and grandmothers take to the streets to march for women, this is a fearsome work of beauty that will live on and speak with raw power, inspiring generations of women to find their step in the dance, and to raise their voices to shout against the tyrannies that would render us abject yet again. As a woman of color, I felt so very privileged to to be laughing and weeping with all colored girls who have considered suicide, and found that the rainbow was enuf
- by Ntozake Shange
- Directed by Djanet Sears
- Soulpepper Theatre Company
- Cast: Tamara Brown, Karen Glave, Ordena Stephens-Thompson, d’bi.young anitafrika, Akosua Amo-Adem, SATE, Evangelina Kambites
- Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto
- Until 31st May 2017
- Review by Aparna Halpé
- 13 May 2017