for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange is the poem/script for the titular stage production. This “choreopoem,” for that is what the author called it, is a performance art piece, a choral poem spoken in several voices, each woman stepping out into a monologue at various points during the performance.
I wanted to reread this after watching the movie because I didn’t remember the text as being so dark, so melodramatic and painful to watch. I realize now that my memory of the text had softened much of the hardness of it content. Brutal moments communicated it cutting verses, the text leaves the reader bleeding, raw, emotionally overwrought or desperately numb, depending on the innate visceral response.
The play has been criticized for being anti-male. I’ve noticed that many texts that are labeled “feminist” are automatically accused of male bashing. Is it necessary to say that if anything is “pro” something it is presumably “anti” something else? Why is it that feminists must be immasculating as if being pro-woman immediately means being anti-man? I do not see the correlation between the two. But I can see where some people would read this text and find it heard to discover a man of integrity or worthy of appreciation. They are all broken in their own ways, as are the women speaking the words. They are all deeply flawed and human.
The men, however, are not given a voice. How lovely would it be to have this play performed in three acts, two more acts to be written? First, one act would be the woman’s perspective or perhaps the man’s. Better yet, have the first two acts rotate so that on any given performance the audience wouldn’t know if the men or women would initiated the drama that would be performed that evening. Then act three, the final act, could be about how men and women interact, allowing, of course, for the dysfunction of unhappy relationships but also giving room for empowering ones while including same-sex relationships as well. The third act would be about humanity in general, about how the one-on-one relationship is, in some ways, a microcosm of society. Let the voices remain solely African-American because the point is that we are all one and any Caucasian or Hispanic or Asian American who doesn’t recognize some aspect of themselves in this choreopoem in three acts is simply not paying atteniton.
But there is no such three act play. So let Ntozake Shange’s vision stand beautifully alone. Easy to read? No. And no doubt necessary reading.