“For Colored Girls”: The Strengths and Struggles of Womanhood at Penumbra Theatre

The epic mid-’70s monologue series feels as timely as ever

Courtesy Penumbra Theatre

In the play for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, seven women (originally black women, although the new show at Penumbra Theatre introduces other women of color) deliver poetic monologues about their lives—about sexual attraction, about dancing at the club, about domestic violence and rape culture, about suicide, about racial inequality, about the binds of womanhood. When Ntozake Shange penned the 1974 epic, she dubbed it a “choreopoem,” as it blends the unspooling introspection of colloquial verse with naturalistic, liberating choreography. The seven women—each identified only by the color she wears—share struggles and deliberations, based on Shange’s own life and capturing a spark of reality, the poetry lived-in and immediate rather than stilted or bloodless.

What began as Shange’s individual poems developed into small performances she staged outside bars—until her work blew up into a certified New York show, the second play by a black woman to reach Broadway. Now, her words come to Penumbra in St. Paul. The monologues’ treatises on girlhood, maturity, pain, discrimination, and self-celebration have sent plenty of reverberations through the decades since the mid-’70s, up to today, but there’s another way for colored girls feels urgent right now.

“Shange was groundbreaking in her efforts to shatter the silence that protected abusers of women,” according to Penumbra. In our current culture of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it still feels like we’re shattering that silence.

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Through October 14
Penumbra Theatre
270 N. Kent St., St. Paul