Study Guide

A Photograph

by Ntozake Shange

A Photograph Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

A Photograph: Lovers in Motion, first produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1977, is a more conventionally structured play than for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf. The characters exist as individually developed entities rather than as the storytellers of the earlier play: They interact through dialogue and action and advance a plot. Two of the characters, Sean and Michael, are struggling artists; he is a photographer, she is a dancer. Earl and Nevada are both attorneys; Earl is also a longtime friend of Sean. The fifth character, Claire, is a model who poses for Sean’s photography.

The plot concerns Sean’s relationships with the three women: Michael, Nevada, and Claire. All three are or have been his lovers; initially, he wants to maintain all these relationships, saying to Michael: “There are a number of women in my life/ who i plan to keep in my life.” Nevada and Michael, however, each want an exclusive relationship with Sean, a situation that results in several confrontations among the characters, including a physical fight between Michael and Claire. Sean, who has decided he is most attracted to Michael, attempts to persuade Earl to take up with Nevada. The final scene is a confrontation among all five characters, from which three withdraw, leaving Sean and Michael together.

Although the emotional entanglements are played out fairly realistically, Shange retains her commitment to poetic drama. In addition to realistic exchanges among the characters, the characters speak in lyrical passages describing their feelings and aspirations. Some of these lyrical sections are performed by a single character, alone on stage. Even when placed in the context of dialogue, the passages seem more like solo expressions than genuine...

(The entire section is 745 words.)