BWW Review: FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE / WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF at Open Stage Of Harrisburg
Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf is, in the words of Sankofa African American Theatre Company's Managing Director Sharia Benn, "an iconic, ground breaking, soul-shaking work of art." It started with a performance by five women (Shange herself was one of them) in a women's bar in Berkeley, CA, and by 1976, it found its way to the Booth Theatre on Broadway where it ran for over 700 shows. For Colored Girls...was only the second show by an African American woman to appear on Broadway, and Shange portrayed the Lady in Orange on opening night. Sharia Benn and a talented group of women brought For Colored Girls...to central PA at Open Stage of Harrisburg where sold-out audiences experienced an unique and emotional theatre experience.
From the very first moments of the performance, the audience knows they are in for something special. Megan Mwaura, illuminated by a single spotlight, starts out the show with a heart-wrenching display of fear and hopelessness. Without saying a word, she draws the audience in and has them leaning forward in their seats waiting and hoping that someone will help her. At the height of her despair, she finds herself surrounded by women. As the women share their stories, the audience experiences the realm of human emotion in a raw, authentic way. The use of movement, dance, poetry, and music brings their stories to life, reminding all of us of the power of art and performance.
Their stories begin with the poem "dark phrases" featuring the Lady in Brown, portrayed by Aminah Carter, who powerfully entreats "somebody/anybody sing a black girl's song bring her out to know herself to know you but sing her rhythms carin'/struggle/hard times sing her song of life...let her be born." This poem empowers the other women to give voice to their stories. The cast of For Colored Girls...includes MaDonna Awotwi (Lady in Red), Aminah Carter (Lady in Brown), Meredith Greene (Lady in Green), Tanisha Hollis (Lady in Yellow), Manuela Hooper (Lady in Blue), Paula Lewis-Roman (Lady in Orange), DeAnna Williams (Lady in Purple), and Megan Mwaura. These women bring to life the stories of the women in Shange's poetry in a way that words cannot adequately describe-they dive into the story-telling so that the stories seem to become glimpses into their own hearts and lives. The audience can truly feel the joy, fear, anger, hope, despair, pleasure, and pain that each woman portrays in the sharing of their experiences-experiences that are individual and yet somehow shared. While the entire performance is captivating and beautiful, when the women sing "I found god in myself and I loved her" it brings the show to even greater heights-we hear each individual voice in its particular beauty, joining together to create a movement of words and music that penetrates the heart and mind.
There is one additional opportunity left to see For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf at Open Stage at 7:30 on Sunday, January 27th, but you do not want to wait to order your tickets at www.openstagehbg.com. Even if you miss this performance, I encourage you to keep your eyes open for announcements of future productions from Sankofa African American Theatre Company-they never fail to present the audience with an authentic, well-directed, and amazing performance. For more information, visit www.sankofatheatrehbg.com.