when the rainbow is enuf
Choreopoem comes to life with stunning results
for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf is a play of brilliant, frantic, thick and driving emotion, whether on paper or on stage. However, this March senior directors Treva Lindsey and Caren Blackmore and the other seven women in the cast, proved that this play is more powerful in performance. This cast offered a raw and polished interpretation of an often read and little performed masterpiece.
Novelist, playwright and poet ntozake shange wrote this series of poems in the summer of 1974. She explains that she modeled these poems on Judy Grahn’s The Common Woman. The poems “were to explore the realities of seven different kinds of women,” she wrote.
“They were numbered pieces: the women were to be nameless and assume hegemony as dictated by fullness of their lives,” shange continued. The title is taken from a line in the first poem in her series: “I waz smitten by my own language
for colored girls... is about the complex and often ignored experiences of black women. The characters are mostly nameless, yet their identities are personified by the colors they wear and the stories they tell — red, green, orange, purple, yellow, blue. Their poems, almost like monologues and vignettes, reveal the intimate fears, sadness, joys, struggles and complexities of black womanhood.
The acting, singing and dancing was exquisite. Senior Dazlynn Pinkston, senior Nabilah Talib, sophomore Vernicia Elie, senior Karla Victim, sophomore Diona Reasonover, sophomore Lynzie DeVeres and junior Alli Maxwell transformed the Little Theater with a realness and smoothness that seemed to engage and jar the audience. The ensemble’s pace was stunning. Most Oberlin students can recall attending a play at the Little Theater and glancing at their watches and praying for the play to end, due to bad acting or weird experimental theater. Not this time. The realness and smoothness with which this piece was brought to the stage engaged and jarred the audience. They were jarred because of the force and emotion the actors delivered.
Lindsey, in red, performed “a nite with beau willie brown,” a poem about a woman who experiences the brutality of domestic abuse. There was vehemence and fear in Lindsey’s voice, as well as horrified expressions and physical weaving that almost forced the audience to sympathize with her predicament. One felt as if he or she was there when the blows were thrown, feeling the anticipation of this poem’s tragic ending. Victim’s dancing and delivery was exciting and expert. Elie punctuated her lines with humor in a poem titled “Toussaint.” In the poem’s plot, she plays a young girl in St. Louis whose first lover is a Haitian revolutionary. Pinkston’s performance of “abortion cycle #1” was intimate and gritty, sharing with the audience an experience that women are not often allowed to share.
Shange’s choreopoem was about the stories of black women. The first poem in this performance explained “somebody/anybody/sing a black girl’s song/bring her out/to know herself.” It was performed honestly and respectfully by the female cast and will impact the privileged audiences that see it. These cast members gave some of themselves in the performance and no doubt in the preparation of this personal and emotional play. Viewing this play is serious. for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf is a journey into a bold world, and watching these women perform it was inspiring.