But âFor Colored Girlsâ has remained her best known work. In 1982, it was an American Playhouse production on PBS, and in 2010 it became a star-studded film adaptation directed by Tyler Perry.
The cast included Janet Jackson, Kerry Washington, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose and Whoopi Goldberg. Madea, Mr. Perryâs onscreen alter ego, was nowhere to be seen. âMs. Shange said she explicitly told Mr. Perry that Madea could not be in âColored Girls,ââ The Times reported.
Ms. Shange referred to the play as a choreopoem because it combined poetry, dance and music.
Lynn Nottage, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, said the play âdefinitely spoke to a generation of young women who didnât feel invited into a theater space, who suddenly saw representation of themselves in a very honest way, and understood that they could occupy that space for the first time.â
It is also something of a rite of passage for black actresses, the Obie-winning playwright Aleshea Harris (âIs God Isâ) said. Before she switched to playwriting, she played the Lady in Yellow in a Florida production. (Ms. Parks, too, is a veteran of the show, having played the Lady in Blue in a Texas production directed by Laurie Carlos, who originated that role on Broadway.)
Ms. Harrisâs first encounter with the text was years earlier, though, and she remembers the feeling of recognition she had reading it as a college student.
âIt was like electricity,â Ms. Harris recalled, âand I think I said out loud, âThis sounds like me.â It felt like she had taken it out of my mouth.â