For colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf is termed a choreopoem by its author, Ntozake Shange; the drama tells, in a series of twenty poems, stories of joy, pain, suffering, abuse, strength, and resilience of Afro-American women. The characters are seven women (or “ladies,” as they are called in the play), dressed in the colors of the rainbow plus brown. The choreopoem consists of the individual poems spoken by each of the women; each is intermittently joined by the other characters for a chorus effect.
The poems may be grouped into five categories, based on theme and subject. The first three poems explore the subjects of youth and love. At the beginning of the drama, the stage is in darkness, harsh music plays, and dim lights appear. The seven ladies run onstage from the exits and freeze in postures of distress. The spotlight picks up the lady in brown, who is the first to speak. She walks over to the lady in red and calls to her, but there is no response; then the lady in brown begins the first poem, “dark phases.” The poem starts on a somber note, explaining the pains and misunderstandings that mark the youth of a black girl. Then each character states that she is from outside a large metropolitan city: Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Manhattan, and St. Louis. The ladies join to sing familiar children’s rhymes. Subsequently, the lady in brown tags each lady, who then freezes; the lady in brown freezes as well. Next, they all begin to dance to “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas.
The lady in yellow recites the second poem, “graduation nite,” about a night of dancing and parties following a group of students’ graduation from high school. This night ends with lost virginity. The third poem, spoken by the lady in blue, is “now i love somebody more than.” A poem of gratitude for music, it attests the joy that music and dance bring.
The next group of poems expresses feelings of tension, pain, and rebellion. This group consists of four poems: “no assistance,” “i’m a poet who,” “latent rapists,” and “abortion cycle #1.” The first speaker is the lady in red, who recites “no assistance,” a poem of rebellion and disgust. Forcefully, the lady in red berates a lover who has failed to assist her in maintaining their relationship. Having taken the primary responsibility for maintaining the relationship, she is now tired; at the end, she returns her lover’s plant, which she had been tending. The lady in orange immediately begins the next poem, “i’m a poet who,” which declares that because she is a poet, she wants to write, sing, and dance and would rather not—in fact cannot—communicate with people any more. The other ladies join in a dance until a sudden flash of light stops them.
Following introductory lines from the ladies in blue, red, and purple, the lady in red recites the intense poem “latent rapists,” acknowledging the repulsive fact that a rapist is often a personal acquaintance of the victim. In such cases, rape becomes a harsh act of betrayal, difficult or impossible to prosecute. The lady in red...