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Ntozake Shange, Who Wrote ‘For Colored Girls,’ Is Dead at 70

Ntozake Shange, Who Wrote ‘For Colored Girls,’ Is Dead at 70


But “For Colored Girls” 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. Perry’s onscreen alter ego, was nowhere to be seen. “Ms. Shange said she explicitly told Mr. Perry that Madea could not be in ‘Colored Girls,’” 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 “definitely spoke to a generation of young women who didn’t 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.”

It is also something of a rite of passage for black actresses, the Obie-winning playwright Aleshea Harris (“Is God Is”) 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. Harris’s first encounter with the text was years earlier, though, and she remembers the feeling of recognition she had reading it as a college student.

“It was like electricity,” Ms. Harris recalled, “and I think I said out loud, ‘This sounds like me.’ It felt like she had taken it out of my mouth.”



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