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For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf (sometimes stylized as for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf) is a 1975 experimental choreopoem by Ntozake Shange. Initially staged in California, it has been performed Off-Broadway and on Broadway, and adapted as a book, a television film, and a theatrical film. The 1976 Broadway production was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play.
Structurally, For Colored Girls is a series of 20 poems, collectively called a "choreopoem." Shange's poetry expresses many struggles and obstacles that African-American women may face throughout their lives. It is performed by a cast of seven women characters, each of whom is known only by a color: "Lady in Yellow," "Lady in Purple," etc. The poems deal with love, abandonment, rape, and abortion, embodied by each woman's story, e.g. Lady in Blue's visceral account of a woman who chooses to have an abortion, and Lady in Red's tale of domestic violence. The end of the play brings together all of the women for "a laying on of hands," in which Shange evokes the power of womanhood as the Lady in Red begins the mantra "I found God in myself/and I loved her/I loved her fiercely."
First performed at the Bacchanal, a woman's bar outside of Berkeley, California, it was first produced in New York City at Studio Rivbea in 1975; produced Off-Broadway at the Anspacher Public Theatre in 1976; and produced on Broadway at the Booth Theatre that same year, where it ran for 742 performamces.
According to Hilton Als in The New Yorker's "Critic's Notebook" of March 5, 2007, "...all sorts of people who might never have set foot in a Broadway house — black nationalists, feminist separatists — came to experience Shange's firebomb of a poem. [T]he disenfranchised heard a voice they could recognize, one that combined the trickster spirit of Richard Pryor with a kind of mournful blues."
The play was published as a book in 1977 by Macmillan Publishing, followed by a Literary Guild edition in October 1977 and Bantam Books editions beginning in 1980. Segments from the play were performed in-studio on WGBH-TV's Say Brother (now known as Basic Black) television series in December 1977, with actresses Paula Larke and Barbara Alston. A heavily edited version of the play was made into an American Playhouse TV movie in 1982 featuring Shange, actresses Laurie Carlos and Tony Award winner Trazana Beverley from the stage production, dancer Sarita Allen, and with early performances by Alfre Woodard and Lynn Whitfield. Actress Rashida Jones performed this play while in her second year at Harvard.
On March 25, 2009, the film industry magazine 'Variety' reported that Nzingha Stewart, a black female director, had acquired the feature film rights to "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" from Shange and that Lionsgate had signed Stewart to create a screenplay adaptation and direct the film version of the play.
Stewart, at Lionsgate's direction, approached Tyler Perry about producing the film. However, Perry told Lionsgate that if he produced it, he also wanted to write and direct it. Perry then usurped the project from Stewart and scrapped her script. The shift prompted controversy over whether Perry, panned for formulaic, low-brow productions had the skill and consciousness to properly depict an iconic feminist work. Stewart remained on in the token position of executive producer of the film.
On September 3, 2009, Lionsgate announced it had acquired the distribution rights to Tyler Perry's 34th Street Films adaptation of the play, with principal photography originally scheduled to take place in Atlanta, Georgia in November and December 2009. The film, which was retitled "For Colored Girls", was released on November 5, 2010 and was written, directed and produced by Perry. The cast includes Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Michael Ealy, Macy Gray and Omari Hardwick. Mariah Carey had also been cast, but pulled out in May 2010, citing medical reasons.
Perry's decision to make the book into a film was not met without controversy, with some, such as Oprah Winfrey, having expressed doubts over whether the book should be made into a film at all. Others had reservations based on Perry's position at the helm of such an important book in African American literature, particularly considering the controversies raised by Precious, a film he lent his name to.
When asked if she held reservations about Perry's adaptation of her work, Shange responded: "I had a lot of qualms. I worried about his characterizations of women as plastic." In reference to the film post-production, she stated that "I think he did a very fine job, although I'm not sure I would call it a finished film."
The title of For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home, a 2012 anthology of essays edited by Keith Boykin, was based on the title of Shange's play.