I had the absolute pleasure of seeing last weekend’s mainstage show for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange. It is one of the most revolutionary, phenomenal, moving pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen; and the best I’ve seen at Muhlenberg so far. To see black women’s voices and Afrocentrism centered on stage was an act of revolution at a predominantly white institution like Muhlenberg. I had the honor of interviewing a few cast members on their experience performing in such an iconic piece of theatre.
1. What was it like working with a cast made up entirely of black women within a predominately white theatre program?
“Because of the rigor of the rehearsal process, the cast and myself formed a very tight bond, a true sisterhood. And it is because of the shared experiences that we have had as black women attending a PWI that brought us even closer. I finally had a support system that truly understood what I endure on campus everyday, and instead of wallowing in the negativity, we were able to smile, laugh and love the safe space we created for each other.” –Gabrielle Hines ’18 (Lady in Brown)
“Super super refreshing and fulfilling. Going into this process, we rarely spoke about the fact that this was going to be presented in a predominately white institution. We obviously recognized that, but that was not our main focus. This show was meant for us, and we were going to put it on the way we wanted it and express our stories on our own terms, and the only job of the audience was to be there with us and absorb what we had to share.” –Cameron Silliman ’18 (Lady in Red)
2. How much influence did the music and dancing have on the show?
“Music and dance are huge parts of African American culture. So to tell the stories of black women, specifically in a theatrical setting, music, and dance are necessary. The drum served as the pulse throughout the show. And music and song are ways to express emotion or truth when words are not enough.” –Gabrielle Hines ’18 (Lady in Brown)
“The music and dancing definitely added another element to the show. The music and the dancing were an extension of the words and feelings we were trying to express. When we couldn’t find the words to do it justice, we would put it into our bodies and into the music.” –Krystal Hall ’21 (Lady in Blue)
3. A lot of the cast say that this play was the #MeToo before it became it fully fledged movement. How is this show still relevant to the #MeToo movement of today?
“Just as the #MeToo movement allowed space for women to connect and form allyships, FCG exemplifies the communities that can be formed when women come together and recognize our similar struggles as black women. Although For Colored Girls was written for women of color (or culture as Dr. Shirlene Holmes eloquently put), performing the show at Muhlenberg allowed for white students to be not spectators but witnesses to our struggles and testimonies.” –Gabrielle Hines ’18 (Lady in Brown)
“The show is about black women coming together and standing up for ourselves; It’s about us saying “enough is enough” and learning how to find God in ourselves in love her fiercely.” –Krystal Hall ’21 (Lady in Blue)
4. Dr. Luckett told you guys in the rehearsal process “You guys have never had the opportunity to play yourselves in a show.” What was the experience like playing a role so close with your identity and culture?
“It was such a freeing experience honestly.To be able to speak words from experiences that I could relate to and that other black women in my life could relate to allowed for a different level of honesty and authenticity to be present on stage that I had never been able to bring.” –Cameron Silliman ’18 (Lady in Red)
“It was an experience unlike any other. Playing a role so close to my identity and culture was bittersweet because I could relate to many of the issues and problems that these women went through in the play.” –Krystal Hall ’21 (Lady in Blue)
5. What is the most critical piece of advice Dr. Luckett has given to you that you will take with you for the rest of your life?
“The best advice she gave me would have to be that anything that’s going to be great, is hard at first.” – Krystal Hall ’21 (Lady in Blue)
6. What do you want black men and white people to take away from seeing this piece of theatre?
“My hope is that men watch this show and instead of just taking in the beauty of the piece, they recognize themselves in what we are saying. FCG speaks a lot about how men mistreat women and how they don’t even realize their faults. The performance of this piece should be a wake up call to how they operate and perform their masculinity in the public sphere.” –Gabrielle Hines ’18 (Lady in Brown)
“In general I want them to recognize that black women are complicated human beings just like everyone else. Too often are we seen as one-sided and never changing, but the truth is that we are struggling with something every single day because that is what humans do. But I also want audiences to recognize the strength that we have as well, because the fact that we are able to wake up every day and take on these struggles is a testament to the strength that we have and that our ancestors had.” –Cameron Silliman ’18 (Lady in Red)
7. This play is very much an Afrocentric piece. Why is Afrocentric theatre so important to theatre of today and on Muhlenberg’s campus?
“I think that it is important for Afrocentric theatre to be produced and seen, especially on a campus like Muhlenberg because it allows for diverse bodies to be heard and seen in a space that has historically not given them the same opportunities to show their talents.But this type of theatre also challenges peoples understandings towards marginalized groups of people and forces an audience to step outside of their own perspective and acknowledge the complexities of other people.” –Cameron Silliman ’18 (Lady in Red)
Like most people in the audience, I was in awe and captivated by an art a lot of us at Muhlenberg had previously not been exposed to. The words of the actors and their performances on stage speaks volumes. They don’t want us to be spectators, but witnesses to their experiences and struggles. To be apart of the change and the revolution. This is more than a revolution though, this a continuous movement to center voices on the Muhlenberg stage that have previously been silenced.