Photo by Dymand Mitchell
Photo by Dymand Mitchell

Inside the intimate setting of the Anacostia Art Center’s black box theater, patrons eagerly awaited the SoulFly Theatre Society’s latest production, “For Colored Girls – The Curvy Edition.” Directed by Cynthia Dorsey and performed by a dynamic cast of women, SoulFly’s three-day production, performed on Nov. 19, 20 and 22, is a revival of poet and playwright Ntozake Shange’s 1976 theatrical classic with just one modern-day twist: Nearly all of her players are full-figured women.

“I first saw this play at my school, Duke Ellington”, Dorsey said. “It inspired me to become an actress.” Years later, Dorsey sought the opportunity to show the world her acting talents, but realized that she was being rejected for roles simply because of her weight. “I was often overlooked and ignored for parts and I was always told to lose weight. Sometimes talent is seen just for their bodies.” Dorsey saw the stigmas that overweight women were subjected to as aspiring actors and decided to make a stand. “That is why I decided to cast mainly plus-size women for this play.”

“For Colored Girls, Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” is a collection of 20 narrative poems told through monologues by seven nameless women, each represented by a single color found in the rainbow. The play is told through poetry, music, dance and song in a theatrical combination creator Ntozake Shange has coined as a “choreopoem.”

Starring Demaria Anissa (Lady in Yellow), Veronica LaShell MacRae (Lady in Red), Chrystal Vaughan (Lady in Orange), Yanika Abrahams (Lady in Green), Erika Scott (Lady in Brown), Tiffany Lyn (Lady in Purple) and Ghislaine Dwarka (Lady in Blue), the monologues discuss issues that women of color have with relationships, their battles with race, their search for identity, and their evolution from naivety to enlightenment. They touch on such topics as teenage pregnancy, sex, infidelity, abortion, promiscuity, domestic violence, homicide, suicide and rape. Each of these exceptionally talented actresses recited Shange’s fluid monologues with ease, conveying passion, imagery and power behind each word.

“For Colored Girls” contains some of the most haunting and hauntingly beautiful poetry in theater. The theatrical performance begins with the poem “Dark Phrases,” which is about the dark phrases of womanhood, and serves as a prologue to the deeper issues found throughout the production. “Are we ghouls? Children of horror? The joke? Don’t tell nobody; don’t tell a soul. Are we animals? Have we gone crazy?”

Other monologues include “Latent Rapists,” the heartrending tale from a rape victim: “A rapist doesn’t have to be a stranger to be legitimate . . . We can now meet them in circles we frequent for companionship, see them at the coffeehouse with someone else we know, we can even have them over for dinner and get raped in our own houses by invitation.” The production ends with the poem “A Laying on of Hands,” signaling the women’s unity, strength and enlightenment.

The SoulFly players gave fantastic performances, each filled with energy and life. They invoked laughter, shouts of agreement, disdain and, at times, silence and reflection from the audience. Through spoken word, the ladies conveyed the deepest of emotions, capturing the joys, sorrows and pain that flowed throughout Shange’s original production. “For Colored Girls, Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” speaks volumes, not just to women of color but to all women.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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