|Photo courtesy of Pan-African Theatre Ensemble Instagram: @thepate.ksu
Words by Ashlynn Thompson
This piece is a part of the weekend-long series of New Black Plays by the African Community Theatre. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf is a choreopoem, a series of poems with choreographed movements, with an all-black female cast. In each poem, a woman or a group of women share a personal experience that deals with a hard-hitting subject, including rape, beauty standards or romantic love. At its core, the work expresses the resilience and excellence of the black woman.
- Directorial Concept 8/10 80%
Director ShaKeela Gary’s concept is first and foremost to celebrate black womanhood, especially resiliency and sisterhood. Each woman speaks of different experiences, but each story is somehow connected to the next. In the few scenes where the actors are all together, there is a palpable connection of sisterhood — each female felt the others’ pain, sorrow and joy. The director definitely got the most out of her actors. They were big, loud and proud in their delivery and especially natural in the way they interacted with each other and told their stories. In addition, the movements are a very unique element that greatly enhanced the piece. Gary manages to express the excellence of women of all shades of brown through her concept, despite some elements of production which did not quite measure up.
- Elements of Production 7/10 70%
Elements of Production
The set and lighting are not used most effectively to support the work. Each poem requires a set change and several set pieces are used for many of the poems. The constant set changes make the work seem disjointed and became quite distracting between poems, which are only a few minutes. In addition, several set pieces and props are used, including a couch, table and wooden blocks, and seem out of place due to the brevity of each scene. It may be more effective to use a minimal set, arranged in a way that works for most or all scenes in order for the audience to focus more on the poems and message.
Furthermore, nearly every actor receives a spotlight for their poem in addition to the stage lights. Because of this, the meaning and importance of the spotlight diminishes. In a few poems, the spotlight would shine different colors, but the colors or times when they shined did not seem to have any rhyme or reason behind them. Reserved use of the spotlight would have been more successful at enhancing the production.
- The Acting 9/10 90%
For Colored Girls: Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf:’ A Critical Review
- Overall Rating: 8/10 80%
Play: “For Colored Girls: Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf”
Author: Ntozake Shange
Director: ShaKeela Gary
Theatre: African Community Theatre
Theatre Company: Pan-African Theatre Ensemble
Performance Dates: April 12—April 15, 2018
Run Time: 45 minutes
For the most part, the actors give excellent performances with great emotional range in only a few minutes of solo appearances. Standouts include Sydney Smith, who performs No More Love Poems #1; Autumn Stackhouse, who acts in No Assistance; Kaela Still, who plays in No More Love Poems #2; and Chaunice Hendking, who performs Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff. Each of these actors showcase an impressive range, quickly changing from sass to joy to heartbreak and agony to great sorrow within seconds. The actors make their stories relatable, especially to those who have enjoyed the feeling of being in love or gotten their heart broken, by using modern slang; an actor need only say one word and the reaction from the audience or the other actors would be natural and immediate. The performances in this production give new meaning to the phrase, “Sometimes all you can do is laugh to keep yourself from crying.”
- Worth Seeing 8/10 80%
Why This is Worth Seeing
With 13 poems in total, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf is a very emotion-heavy piece. It can seem disjointed at times because of the set changes and so many different stories being told back-to-back, but each poem showcases distinct characters who are all bound by a sisterhood. The actors do not hold back and are very strong in their movements and delivery; they give some of the best performances the African Community Theatre has seen this semester. Finally, the themes of this production, especially the excellence of black women and the beauty of brown skin, are so refreshing to see onstage and celebrated.
Even though you won’t be able to see this particular piece again, you can catch more creative works in the New Black Plays series, which will be running this entire weekend.