Critical Context (Comprehensive Guide to Drama)
A Photograph: Lovers in Motion, like other plays by Shange, including for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf (pr., pb. 1976), Boogie Woogie Landscapes (pr. 1979, pb. 1981), and Spell #7: Geechee Jibara Quik Magic Trance Manual for Technologically Stressed Third World People (pr. 1979, pb. 1981), encompasses so imperceptibly the particulars of African American life that the substance of the play becomes recognizable as universal. Shange’s aim in the theater has been to evoke an emotional response as the lives of mutilated characters are laid bare.
Women of every race were affected by Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf. Shange’s 1976 Broadway smash hit, only the second play by a black woman to reach Broadway, marked the beginning of a new temper in American theater. This play established its author as a serious, innovative dramatist, who gives voice to the pain of all women who have been raped emotionally and physically and perceive themselves as exploited and unappreciated. Furthermore, with this play Shange succeeded in establishing the choreopoem as an acceptable, legitimate form.
Shange’s originality in A Photograph: Lovers in Motion created additional space for her art form in the American theater. This play demonstrates her interdisciplinary approach to theater, in her portrayal of the lives of visual and performing artists. Her use of poetry, dance, music, and choreographed lighting is her way of bringing to the theater the heart and soul of African American traditions. When Michael dances, her movements symbolize the working out of the tangles of her life. The rhythm in Michael’s dance is heightened by the blending of poetry and nontraditional dialogue. This theater piece, with its innovative structure and language, extended the possibilities and alternatives of dramatic art.