UT adaptation of Shange’s for colored girls shows all colors of humanity

By Claire Gilbert

Upon arriving at the Third Floor Theater of the Reynolds Club on Wednesday night, the house manager chirped, “Hi. Are you here to see colored girls?” Somewhat taken aback by his accidental strange phrasing, I took my seat in the second row and cracked open my program. I felt somewhat apprehensive upon reading director John Frame’s production notes. In them, he warned that the play I was about to see, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, is neither “race sensitive” nor “time sensitive.” You see, I like race sensitivity; I like political correctness. Above all, I like pushing the concept of a black/white divide into the ’60s and ’70s.

Once the play began, however, the rhythmic tone of writer Ntozake Shange’s words put me at ease. I soon came to identify with the characters’ stories and emotions, beautifully expressed through poetry, song, and dance. I was not made to feel “other” to them, as I had feared. From the lips of six women, the Ladies in Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, and Brown, I heard the stories of fellow women, of fellow human beings dealing with human beings. True, the stories the Ladies tell undeniably and primarily belong to a particular, historically voiceless demographic. Still, it is not so much a play about coping with racial stigma as it is a play about learning to love oneself. As the Ladies, in their final, chanted line sing, “I saw God in myself, and I loved her.” As director John Frame wrote to me in an e-mail, “[the play] is about the ability for people (women in this case) to recognize with their hearts that they can be more.”

In many ways, this show is a breath of fresh air for University Theater. After seeing the same UT actors in play after play, I enjoyed getting acquainted with the dramatic stylings of new faces. Many of the actresses had never been in plays at all before. Yet one wouldn’t have suspected inexperience if their biographies in the program didn’t say so. The stage presence and level of artistic expression that these seven ladies accomplished was remarkable. The minority focus was also something new and something fresh for UT. It was one of the reasons Frame, a second-year in the college, chose to propose “for colored girls . . .” He told me, “I wanted to bring this play to UT because I was a bit frustrated that there weren’t more minority-written, produced and acted plays/performances going on…I hope that this production will inspire more people to get involved in UT and do more work with minority shows. I think that there is a lot of potential there.”

The performance I saw last night proves him right.