for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf is a choreopoem, a poem (really a series of 20 separate poems) choreographed to music. Although a printed text cannot convey the full impact of a performance of for colored girls..., Shange's stage directions provide a sense of the interrelationships among the performers and of their gestures and dance movements.
The play begins and ends with the lady in brown. The other six performers represent the colors of the rainbow: the ladies in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The various repercussions of "bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical dilemma" are explored through the words, gestures, dance, and music of the seven ladies, who improvise as they shift in and out of different roles. In the 1970s, when Ntozake Shange herself performed in for colored girls..., she continually revised and refined the poems and the movements in her search to express a female black identity. Improvisation is central to her celebration of the uniqueness of the black female body and language, and it participates in the play's theme of movement as a means to combat the stasis of the subjugation. In studying this play in its textual, static format one should, therefore, keep in mind the improvisational character of actual performance and realize that stasis is the opposite of what Shange wanted for this play. In fact, in her preface she announces to readers that while they listen, she herself is already "on the other side of the rainbow" with "other work to do." She has moved on, as she expects her readers to do as well.