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Theatre

New Play Explores Racial and Ethnic Identities

Cast members in rehearsal for the Festival Playhouse production, "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf" (Emma Franzel) Cast members in rehearsal for the Festival Playhouse production, "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf" (Emma Franzel)

From November 12 through November 15, Kalamazoo College’s Theater Department will put on the acclaimed play, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, written by the feminist playwright and poet, Ntozake Shange, and directed by one of K’s Theater Art professors, Karen Berthel.

This play is referred to as a “choreopoem,” a genre Shange coined herself, for its various forms of performance art like music, dance, poetry, and song. This piece showcases seven black women, each known as a different color of the rainbow, as they share their life experiences through these artistic mediums. This show is the first of K’s 2015-2016 theatrical season and carries a lot of importance with the Theater Department’s theme of ethnic and racial identity.

Laura Livingstone-McNeils, a K alum and the Theater Department’s Administrator, noted that while she appreciates how the department is putting on shows with accurate representations of ethnic and racial identities, she feels that there is room for even more diverse depictions of people on the stage, like characters with special needs and mental illness.

“The theme this year is so great because you are looking for the best in someone from whatever ethnic or cultural background they come from,” Livingstone-McNeils said. “You are recognizing that they have something you may not and you are seeing how great that difference is.”

Keya Boyles ’16 is a theater major and a cast member in for colored girls.

“Since my start at K, I have always wanted to be a part of a play that has something to do with my culture…that deals with being from a low-income community, and being black, and being a woman,” Boyles said. “This play addressed all of these and more. I’ve always had a craving to be a part of something like this because this is what I am passionate about.”

In addition to playing the “Lady in Yellow,” Boyles is the Dramaturge for this play, and she has done extensive research on the play, the playwright, and the time it was born into, 1970’s America. When talking about how she feels portraying a “colored” woman of this time, she notes “I am not offended by it…I think it speaks through generations… and I think that it works very effectively… women can relate what this word means, and the weight it carries.”

As the Lady in Yellow, Boyles shared that her character “…makes many transformations throughout the play. She’s a very fascinating character and goes through a lot – specifically surrounding sexuality… I don’t want to give too much away because I want you to come see it!”

All K College students, faculty and staff members are invited to attend the performances of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse on November 12 at 7:30 p.m., November 13 and 14 at 8:00 p.m., and on November 15 at 2:00 p.m.

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New Play Explores Racial and Ethnic Identities