Playwright- Ntozake Shange (ntozake means she who comes with her own things, shange means she who walks like a lion) – changed her name to separate herself from the history of a culture that champions slavary
Beginning of Ntozake Shange’s life
Paulette Williams (original name) born. 1948Affluent family- jazz (african american music giants family friends) , overprotective family, moved to St. Louis where she experienced racism, college graduates with honors, name change 21
Middle of Ntozake Shange life
After college moves to Harlem (experiences black women oppression) feels connection to group and feels responsible for voices for that group Marriage to law studentAttempts suicide a number of times, experiences depression Moves to west coast gets masters in 1973 Teacher in California
Later in Ntozake Shange life
Rainbow incident- self realization that changes her. Sees huge rainbow over city when feeling depressed driving home after an evening class. She saw rainbow and felt finally like she had a right to be there, even though she was an African American woman. Gave her the possibility to start all over again with the power and beauty of herself. Current works- non commercial, installation art 1974- poetry readings of her work 74-76 colored girls- poems, performed, NY
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Influences on Ntozake Shange and what she gained from them
JazzLeroi jones – broke with tradition, black playwright that wrote about racial confrontation. Dashes in title.
ee. Cummings – lower case letters and no punctuation
When was colored girls written
What type of play is colored girls
Choreopoem- Choreopoem- 20 plays choreographed into one.
Partner and director
What did the playwright set out to do
What did the playwright set out to do- she wanted to celebrate the uniqueness of the black female body and language. She is hoping that her poems express a back female identity.
Themes of colored girls
Themes1. Identity2. Alienation and loneliness (women die in a way, when unable to love fully) 3. Race and racism (no groups for African American women, social oppression and domination of black men, their own men within their race was oppressing them. )
What was going on at the time of colored girls in the US
Vietnam war protestWatergateInflationPessimist attitude towards futureB. Civil rights collides with feminist Movements colliding with one another but hurting each others causeHave own conflicts within themselves. Neither groups address black female identity. Revelation that black women were being oppressed by both black men and white society Bottom place of social society.
Colored girls and theater context
Theater changes, the fact that colored girls does well shows change in society and threater
Identity Alienation and loneliness3. Race and racism
Brown- label is all black female woman. represents Shange, she is the black female “every woman”. she begins and ends the play. she represents all of the girls together, because if you mix all colors together you get brown. It’s a color not in the rainbow but playwright puts herself into the rainbow.
Red- label is PASSION. Lustful, painful, alienation.
Orange- label is identity. She knows what she doesnt want to be trying to find herself. She talks about she doesnt want to be called a bitch and a nag she will leave that bitterness for someone else.
because its a cautionary color, so people will notice.
Blue- label is sadness. She is racially mixed character. Speaks a little Spanish and loves to dance. Runs away to meets boyfriend gets stood up.
Has abortion, fed up in poem sorry, and I used I live in the world.
Purple- label is pain to power. she comes through the pain, she is not broken she is bruised and so she is the better because of it. its an empowering character, powerful character
Yellow- label is youth. Naive she is more likely to do what she is supposed to do in the beginning she thinks that is what she is supposed to do doesnt understand severity, but in the end of the play gets an awareness of her world.
Green- label is growth.
Shes independent in someone walked out eid all my stuff, She references Shange playwright’s name which mean she who walks like a lion.
Poem dark phrases
1. Dark phrases- saying where all the girls are from, they dance and sing together, play a game of freeze tag. They reference cities because its concentrated in Urban area. And women from everywhere
No assistance- instead of giving up on relationship she’s giving it back… She was watering the plant that represents their relationship and she doesn’t need or want it anymore.
Really means I don’t need anyone but herself. Orange throwbacks to her desire for love and joy says I want to dance.. Means if people are letting you down dance and sing.
. A way to escape, offering positive ways to escape situation. It makes you happy.
Poem latent rapist
Latent rapist- “date rape” nonexistent term in the mid 70s when the play was written. A huge issue that people didn’t want to listen to.
Victim blamed, shocked by violence of someone they knew, not a stranger.
Abortion cycle 1
abortion cycle #1- lady blue steel rods inside no one comes to comfort her. Blue’s shame prevents her from telling anyone.
Toussaint- about brown who falls in love with a character from the restricted section of the adult library. French Revolution hero who refused to be a salve, black man, becomes her ideal black male companion. Meets toussaint jones and doesn’t take no stuff from white folks meaning he stands up and she accepts him, pretty much her real life crush. You take what’s there and make the best of it.
I used to live Ina world
6. I used to live Ina world- lady in blue telescoping of her world down to 6 blocks in Harlem..her world is getting smaller even though she is young. Themes are highlighted
Pyramid- lady in yellow 2 issues developed a disease and betrayed. All ladies have been infected.
But in the end they forgive one another and their bond of sisters is stronger than any man.
Positive- yellows blood number comes back positive for aids. You’re not a person anymore..
You are a number of positive or negative. You’re not addressed with you name but your number.
Someone walked off wid all my stuff
Someone walked of wid all my stuff- lady and green self expression is all she has left song and dance
Beau Willie brown
Beau Willie brown- there was no air. Cochin alcoholic with PTSD from Vietnam war. Mentally ill might have been caused by war. At the lowest she can’t find her voice and he drops the children
A layin on of hands
11. A laying on of hands- healing poem all ladies join and emphasize power of laying on of hands that God within themselves “I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely.
Healing comes from bonding and self discovery
Invented by Shange
Symbolism Ladies costumesRainbow colors + brown (symbolizes black identity in existence with the rainbow) in the playwrights rainbow brown is there.
monologue 20 poemsFragmentation – poems are unified by common theme The portraying of black female identity is a common theme which unifies all the 20 poems into one.
Leitmotif=Music that signifies an idea, a person, a situationExample- Jaws (the music that makes you think jaws)Characters move for disharmony in beginning—> in the end they find whole-ness/unity Characters can’t express themselves fully until they find that unity.