Knox students recently performed a new kind of play called “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” by Ntozake Shange. Described as a “choreopoem,” which is a “series of poems performed aloud to music and dance,” “colored girls” utilized the minimal venue it took place in and filled the Box with voices, song and movement. “Colored girls,” directed by juniors Kristyn Bridges and Monica Prince, offered a glimpse into the lives of colored girls and women.
The characters of the play are named after different colors, such as Lady in Red, bringing to mind the idea of color and race. Dressed in black clothing contrasting vibrant-colored cloth, the actresses stepped into the emotional roles of women at turning points in their lives: women who had an abortion, were in an abusive relationship and were coming to terms with the idea of race.
The choreopoem opened with actresses freezing in a pose and the Lady in Brown (junior Karen Tsoka) unfreezing and speaking the first poem “dark phases.” She looked around, unsure, asking, “Hello? … Are we ghosts?” Tsoka recited “dark phases,” using music as a conceit to convey what it was like to be a black girl with lines like “Sing her rhythms.” She ended the piece on a hopeful note, saying, “Sing the song of her possibilities.”
Directly after this, the other actresses reanimated and began to call out the names of locations, such as Chicago, in a serious tone. Then the mood shifted as they began to sing a tune reminiscent of songs sung while playing jump rope. They tagged each other as children do. Little scenes such as these were interspersed between poems, adding to the play’s atmosphere.
“Sechita” was a poem expertly recited by Lady in Purple, freshman Angeles Garduno, with movement performed by Purple Mover, junior Christian Lewis. Garduno told the story with compelling rhythm, helping propel the actions of Lewis, who illustrated lines of the poem, such as Sechita putting on stockings.
One of the emotional highlights of “colored girls,” was the poem “abortion cycle #1” performed by senior Shanna Collins. Collins’ performance incited surprised and concerned looks from the audience as she sat against a wall and said, “Dead mice fall from my mouth.” She recited her poem starting with an almost calm demeanor and then as the poem progressed, she spoke with an increasing awareness of an abortion as she yelled “Get off of me … all of this blood!”
Collins was skilled at inciting audience reaction as shown in another highlight entitled “sorry.” While she talked to her off-stage lover, rejecting his apologies, she received calls of encouragement from the audience, like “Say it, girl!” She won over the audience with her expressive tone and unwavering conviction.
Near the end of the play was the cathartic narrative poem called “A nite with beau willie brown.” Narrated by Garduno, “A nite” told the story of Willie Brown (played by freshman Ashley Kyles), who tried to convince his wife (sophomore Rana Tahir) to be with him again after she filed a restraining order against him for being abusive. He convinced his children (juniors Robin Mahung and Christian Lewis) that he had changed but his wife did not believe him. Once Willie Brown had his children in his arms, he held them out of a window, which Kyles illustrated holding Mahung’s and Lewis’ arms above them, in order to convince his wife to take him back. Tahir begged Kyles to not harm them and in a moment of heightened emotion as the children screamed, Kyles dropped them and with a slam, silence stilled the air.
“Colored girls” exhibited emotion with such variations as to rival the spectrum of colors in a rainbow. Despite a few parts of the play being difficult to hear, “colored girls” delivered a new look at theatre, spoken poetry and dance.