Ntozake Shange: Moving to the Ends of Her Own Rainbow

By Turner, Beth | Black Masks, August 31, 1995 | Go to article overview

Ntozake Shange: Moving to the Ends of Her Own Rainbow


Turner, Beth, Black Masks


Ntozake Shange: Moving To The Ends of Her Own Rainbow.

True to her Zulu surname, Ntozake Shange "walks like a lion" within the confines of the small Recital Hall at Henry Street Settlement's Abrons Art Center on the Lower East Side of New York. She is in the midst of directing the 20th Anniversary revival of the New Federal Theatre production of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. With Mickey Davidson, choreographer; Craig Harris, musical composer; and seven actresses discovering the dynamics of becoming new "colored girls," Shange returns to her seminal work with energy and enthusiasm. After twenty years of a prodigious literary, dramatic and performance career, amazingly, she still captures the spontaneity, freshness and excitement of the show's earliest performances.

After pacing quietly but tautly in the back row of the theatre, Shange pounces down the steps to the stage to administer some hands-on blocking. She asks the stage manager, Jacqui Casto, for the next few lines for two of the actresses. It quickly becomes obvious that this production is no dusting off of an etched-in-stone classic. Casto calls out, "Lady in Gold says..." Lady in Gold? What happened to Lady in Yellow. The Ladies in Blue, Green, Brown, Purple and Red have also segued into Aqua, Mint, Pink, Violet, and Rose. The Lady in Orange, originally played by Shange, remains the same.

The color update is only the first surprise. Casto continues, "Lady in Gold says, `HIV test? oh, baby, i forgot. i'm so sorry.' Lady in Pink answers, `oh, my god! i meant to put on a condom but it was so-o-o good. i'm sorry.' "New text! As in its early pre-Broadway life, for colored girls...is still evolving!

"I'm having as much fun as I did when I did it in San Francisco," exudes Shange. Back then, Shange also directed her piece, but she points out, "I didn't know that I was directing. I was just doing my work. We didn't have names for it." In actuality, she was a one-person production company for the original play. "I remember I fired two bands," she says. "I cut the number of band members down because I didn't have enough to pay them. I was also my own publicist...I would get up at dawn and go around and put [flyers] on telephone poles and in windows and barber shops," she laughs. "So this is fun not to have to do all those things now."

Born in Trenton, New Jersey on October 18, 1948, the then Paulette Williams grew up as one of four children in a solidly middle-class environment. Her father, Paul T. Williams, a surgeon, and her mother, Eloise O. Williams, a social work educator, provided a financially secure, stable family where both education and African American heritage were prized.

When she was eight years old, a family move to St. Louis, Missouri brought new experiences and challenges. It was the mid 1950s, just a couple of years after the Supreme Court Brown vs. The Board of Education decision banning the segregation of schools. Paulette found herself among the first waves of Black students being bussed to a German-American school where she encountered racist attitudes. The school's saving grace, however, was its strong program in literature, music, dance, and art.

After five years in St. Louis, the family returned to New Jersey. Yet, the influence of the St. Louis sojourn, during her very impressionable preadolescent years, is indelibly etched in Shange's senses and in her work. Even today, she says, "St. Louis. I can almost still smell the air there when I dream." The city also provided the landscape for some of Shange's most poignant writing on prepubescent girls, such as in the choreopoem "Toussaint L'Ouverture" from for colored girls...("no tellin what all spirits we cd move/ down by the river/st. louis 1955"); and especially in her novel, Betsey Brown.

Back in New Jersey, on the threshhold of womanhood, Paulette became increasingly aware of the limitations on Black women in America. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ntozake Shange: Moving to the Ends of Her Own Rainbow
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.