Black women write his­tory, again

For col­ored girls en­acts black fem­i­nine sis­ter­hood

The McGill Daily - - Front Page - Glo­ria François

“I cried, I laughed loudly, I clapped, and I snapped fu­ri­ously!” These are the first words I told the cast of For Col­ored Girls Who Have Con­sid­ered Sui­cide When the Rain­bow Is Enuf be­fore start­ing our short in­ter­view, which quickly turned into a friendly dis­cus­sion be­tween Black women.

For Col­ored Girls is a piece that was orig­i­nally writ­ten by Ntozake Shange in 1976. This piece con­sists of po­etic mono­logues ac­com­pa­nied by mu­sic and chore­ogra­phies ( known as chore­opoem). Each poem tells the sto­ries of seven women who have suf­fered some form of op­pres­sion at dif­fer­ent points in their lives.

The Mcgill Daily: You talked about in­ti­mate sub­jects and dis­played a lot of personal things. How did you feel do­ing all of this in front of an au­di­ence? What were the high­lights of the piece, and the main chal­lenges faced?

Benita Bai­ley (Lady in Red): Be­cause these women [on the cast] are amaz­ing on and off stage, as you can see, it was not dif­fi­cult to be vul­ner­a­ble. Pre­sent­ing the last mono­logue was the hard­est for me, and ev­ery­one knows that here! I was re­ally ter­ri­fied to get my shit to­gether till the end. [My trust in all] the girls [made it] pos­si­ble for me to just give it my all. I found it hard to keep my emo­tions con­tained when scenes such as the abor­tion one were be­ing played [ed­i­tor’s note: the Abor­tion scene is when the Lady in Blue, too ashamed to have peo­ple look at her get­ting an abor­tion, pro­ceeds to ex­e­cute an abor­tion on her­self, alone]. Like, you want to feel the emo­tions but at the same time you can’t let them over­whelm you. The Pyra­mid scene blew me away be­cause ev­ery time I felt like [the Lady in Blue] were telling us sis­ters [her] story, so [she] must have been do­ing some­thing right! [ed­i­tor’s note: the Pyra­mid scene is when the ladies in Blue, Yel­low, and Orange rem­i­nisce on when they were at­tracted to the same man even though he could only choose one. That man ended up cheat­ing on two of them].

My big­gest challenge was ob­vi­ously my last mono­logue. What I strug­gled with is that I didn’t be­lieve I could do it, be­cause I had never done such a long mono­logue be­fore. I did not tell Munya be­cause I thought she would freak out. It was es­pe­cially a challenge be­cause be­ing a Black ac­tress com­ing from Europe, I [usu­ally] don’t get main roles... I get cer­tain [type­casted] roles. So, all of a sud­den I have this amaz­ing mono­logue that I’ve never had the chance to do be­fore. Ev­ery day I came to the girls and told them I couldn’t do it. The last week, ev­ery­body knew their lines and I was freak­ing out be­cause I didn’t. I stayed up un­til 2 a.m. be­cause I was freak­ing out. I was wait­ing for the girls to tell me some­thing that would crush me, but they al­ways en­cour­aged me and helped me!

Mun­yaradzi Gu­ra­matunhu (Di­rec­tor) (MG):

I told her she could do it. ( laughs)

Lorna Kidjo (Lady in Yel­low) (LK): I feel the same way. The fact that we’ve be­come so close, that I know that I’m with the girls, is what al­lows me to put so much out there. Be­cause yeah, I feel ex­actly like [Bai­ley] said, safe.

Nelly Zarfi (Lady in Brown):

Per­son­ally, this chore­opoem helped me be­cause I am still go­ing through a heart­break, and so many po­ems res­onate with me. Some­times you want to be loved and you want it so much that you put your­self out there. But there’s a point when you’re like “I gave you ev­ery­thing, please love me.” This kind of beg­ging thing is some­thing that has hap­pened to me and I love the fact that there are other po­ems that are like “no, you need to love your­self first,” and those are the an­swers and emo­tions you’re go­ing through in re­la­tion­ships. Those po­ems give me great an­swers, so this was a great thing be­cause it built a sis­ter­hood, and I also think we learned a lot about wom­an­hood.

Jamila Joseph ( Lady in Pur­ple): Do­ing this play felt full- circle for me. I felt like meet­ing [ the cast], be­ing able to play Lady in Pur­ple, be­ing part of this pro­duc­tion was all writ­ten in the stars. I feel like they were all miss­ing from my sis­ter­hood. This is my first act­ing gig, and I was ex­tremely ner­vous. Speak­ing and having to do scenes then go into feel­ings I don’t re­ally want to talk about and re­visit was re­ally hard for me. I had to face a lot of in­se­cu­ri­ties and fears and trau­mas and things I did not want to deal with. But having a group of women that were do­ing the same thing as me — telling the hon­est story of Black women — made me feel like I had women back­ing me up. There was a mo­ment when we were do­ing the Abor­tion scene and I got re­ally emo­tional, and I didn’t feel like I could be part of it. And I had all these women just come to me and be like “Are you ok? I’m here for you.” I know that it ex­ists and that I have sis­ter­hood in my life, but these are all women I didn’t know, I [ had] just met them, and it just reaf­firmed what Black fe­male sis­ter­hood meant [to me]. I didn’t have to ac­tu­ally know you to know that we love and care about each other. It wasn’t only about me, it was about all of us. This sis­ter­hood made me feel very grounded and se­cure even though we are all very dif­fer­ent and sim­i­lar at the same time. And it’s ok! Sis­ter­hood isn’t only about na­maste and kum­baya, you know what I mean? We’re not go­ing to agree on ev­ery­thing, we’re gonna have dif­fer­ent feel­ings about things and want to ex­press ourselves in cer­tain ways, and still all do that and have re­spect for each other. And that makes me love them even more be­cause I’m like, “Wow, you’re such a strong woman and we’re all dif­fer­ent, and we can still see the big­ger pic­ture and work to­gether.”

For me, the hard­est part of be­ing Lady in Pur­ple was telling the Pyra­mid story. If I ever had a boyfriend and found out my friend was sleep­ing with him, it’s deuces both ways, and good­bye, you know what I mean? Or a talk with my sis­ter like “What the hell? What’s go­ing on?” It was hard for me to be sad and to do the beg­ging kind of thing be­cause that’s not me any­more. I’ve

“Be­ing a Black ac­tress com­ing from Europe, I [usu­ally] don’t get main roles... I get cer­tain [type-casted] roles.” –Benita Bai­ley

“The fact that we’ve be­come so close, that I know that I’m with the girls, is what al­lows me to put so much out there. Be­cause yeah, I feel ex­actly like you [Bai­ley] said, safe.” –Lorna Kidjo

“I had all these women just come to me and be like ‘Are you ok? I’m here for you.’” –Jamila Joseph

been in that sit­u­a­tion be­fore in my life. I feel like there’s al­ways that one per­son that will make you do things you never thought you would do. I did not want to re­visit that part of my life, and know­ing I had to resur­face that emo­tion more than once was like “Urgh, I don’t wanna do that! I don’t want to give it tears.” But I had to face those things and to re­al­ize that it is not be­cause I’m bring­ing these emo­tions back that I’m here again, that that per­son is still around, that I still think the same. It is okay to act in this mo­ment, es­pe­cially when you’re not there any­more.

LK: I agree with you. I feel like we’ve got­ten so close so fast be­cause of ev­ery re­hearsal that we had and the piece we’re work­ing on. I usu­ally take a long time to get close to peo­ple and this has hap­pened so fast. I feel that it was made pos­si­ble only be­cause of ev­ery­thing [Gu­ra­matunhu’s] done for us.

Inès Vieux Fran­coeur (Lady in Green):

When I first read the script, I felt so many emo­tions. Even though some of the ex­pe­ri­ences in the texts did not hap­pen to me, I was still able to re­late to them by think­ing about cer­tain mo­ments of my life. The fact that this play was writ­ten in the sev­en­ties and is still rel­e­vant to­day was hon­estly breath­tak­ing. And to per­form that in front of peo­ple, and bring out things that I wanted to stay buried, and putting that out in front of an au­di­ence is def­i­nitely an in­ter­est­ing and nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence. Hon­estly, a real sis­ter­hood blos­somed be­tween us, and this is re­ally amaz­ing be­cause it is what the play is all about. Be­ing able to live this ex­pe­ri­ence with [the cast] is just amaz­ing. Per­son­ally, I did not have any prob­lem with per­form­ing in front of strangers. It’s more when peo­ple I know are in the au­di­ence that I get re­ally anx­ious be­cause some­times I feel like they know what and who I am talk­ing about.

The part I had a lot of dif­fi­culty with was “There’s No More Love Po­ems,” where I talk about giv­ing your­self to peo­ple, and not want­ing to deal with emo­tions, while deny­ing your­self the right to ex­press sor­row and to be sad be­cause you think that be­ing a women of color gives you no right to be sad. That def­i­nitely hit home. There was also the piece about grad­u­a­tion night where my­self and Lady in Blue re­port [to] peo­ple that some­thing bad hap­pened at grad­u­a­tion night. Sex­ual vi­o­lence is al­ways hard to talk about in any cir­cles, so it was hard to deal with it while containing my emo­tions.

Keren Roberts (Lady in Blue):

This play was some­thing new for me. I kind of heard about it but did not re­ally know what it was un­til I saw it a few months ago. I was blown away by the hon­est sto­ries. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen such sis­ter­hood in my life. To see it on stage, and to see it be per­formed by these beau­ti­ful women was like— oh god, there’s beau­ti­ful the­atre out there which lets us be hu­man. [And al­to­gether], you know, sassy and sad and in all our shapes. So when I heard about this I was like, “Okay, I don’t know how it’s gonna go, but imma try.” And I found we’re all sis­ters; we’re all from dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents, so that’s new to me. I feel like I’m eas­ier to get to know through act­ing be­cause you’ll see my ex­tremes and my less- ex­treme habits. I have very lit­tle in com­mon with Blue, [since her story was way more tragic than mine]. I had to re­ally use my imag­i­na­tion, to put trust in the words so that even if I [couldn’t] pic­ture it, the words [were] still there. So find­ing a way to make the words work was my main challenge.

My big­gest challenge [ was] the Abor­tion scene. It is so tricky be­cause it was ac­tu­ally the short­est mono­logue, but you have to tell [an in­cred­i­bly tragic and pain- ful story]. [The Lady in Blue has] hor­ri­ble flash­backs, and she’s still go­ing through trau­matic events. “I didn’t tell any­body. No­body helped, no­body came.” [This put me] into a very vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion, which [has been] re­ally hard for me. I don’t know how I’m go­ing to do it ev­ery night.

The best part was Se­chita be­cause I got to dance, which is some­thing that I love to do [Se­chita is a folk­loric Cre­ole dancer, and is the name of the scene where Lady in Blue de­scribes Se­chita’s life, while the Lady in Green em­bod­ies it by danc­ing]. And ev­ery group scene was in­cred­i­ble for me be­cause I knew that I wasn’t alone, that my girls were here with me.

MG: I could see the progress over time with these girls. You see, in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, peo­ple per­form a piece well once and then con­tinue to per­form it on cruise con­trol, but these girls never did it. The magic hap­pened ev­ery time they per­formed the piece.

For Col­ored Girls is a beau­ti­ful piece which was cre­ated, pro­duced and re­al­ized by Black women for Black women. De­pict­ing the rain­bow of emo­tions we are al­lowed to ex­press, this de­serves sig­nif­i­cantly more recog­ni­tion than it is get­ting at the mo­ment.

Such an im­por­tant and his­toric play should not limit it­self to the base­ment of Mor­rice Hall—it de­serves a big­ger plat­form and au­di­ence than sim­ply Mcgill. Black women are ris­ing and shin­ing more than ever to­day. Let’s give them a chance to be known, and to be ac­claimed for their amaz­ingly strong will.

“To see it on stage, and to see it be per­formed by these beau­ti­ful women was like—oh god, there’s beau­ti­ful the­atre out there which lets us be hu­man. [And al­to­gether], you know, sassy and sad and in all our shapes.” –Keren Roberts

This in­ter­view was edited for length and clar­ity.

Glo­ria François | The Mcgill Daily

Glo­ria François | The Mcgill Daily

Glo­ria François | The Mcgill Daily

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.