Fringe’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf marks the launch of the Colored People’s Theatre Collective, “whose mission is to explore, challenge, and impact how race and diversity are seen on stage.” A heartfelt infusion of poetry, dance, and song, told by an unflinchingly multi-talented cast of women, for colored girls… is a worthy inaugural production.
Written by Ntozake Shange and produced on Broadway in 1976, where it won multiple Tony Awards, the piece is a collection of poems exploring the struggles faced by “women of color living a post-civil rights America” told in a variety of forms. The actors float easily between the various mediums of expression with hardly the bat of an eye, asserting themselves within their worlds and within their space immediately. This strength is carefully paired with the vulnerability necessary to carry the piece honestly.
“I used to live in the world,” the Lady in Blue explains in one of the most captivating monologues of the production. And while the audience is aware they’re looking into to the life of a young woman living in a dangerous Harlem, they’re also aware of their own feet that walk the pavement, the avenues, and the sidewalks, facing their dangers and demons, remembering when life held less peril. These moments are a testament not only to the actors, but to director Jamil Jude.
for colored girls… is also an infectious celebration, filled with laughter, song, and dance. At times, the energy level is so high, and the flow of words so true, one feels as though they belong somewhere on stage, too, reciting tales of their own lives with the women on stage. This space and vitality creates an almost communal experience.
Good use was made of lighting, sound, and space, though occasionally the movement on stage threatened to overpower the words.
The production, however, lacked a certain seamlessness to make it feel like a cohesive whole. Though the rhythm of the more effective pieces was at times breathtaking, this rhythm wasn’t always present. Some of the pieces outshined others quite considerably, leaving the final product feeling somewhat unbalanced.
A steadier momentum was gained as the evening went on, however, and the piece’s climax produced audible gasps within the crowd – proof that a room full of strangers had wholly stepped into the artwork unfolding in front of them. This is a kind of force I imagine will build as the show’s run continues, and a force I look forward to influencing The Colored People’s Theatre Collective as it takes shape.
for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf has 4 more performances at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC.