This groundbreaking work of literature was originally written as an extended choreopoem, debuted on Broadway in 1976, and is an upcoming star-studded movie. For the first time, it is brought to live in audio in this powerful and moving performance by one of the film's stars, acclaimed actress Thandie Newton.
Playwright, poet, and novelist Ntozake Shange originally composed for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf in as a mesmerizingly original choreopoem. The New York Post called it "rich with the author's special voice: by turns bitter, funny, ironic, and savage; fiercely honest and personal." Now a new audiobook, it chronicles the interconnected lives of a group of women facing shatteringly difficult issues, and evokes the indomitable power of enduring hope and joy.
Thandie Newton, from the movies Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness, and W., captures each emotion with heartbreaking honesty in a fearless, passionate, and inspiring performance of the author's vivid and lyrical language. The New York Times says "Ntozake Shange writes with such exquisite care and beauty that anyone can relate to her message."
The stage is in darkness. Harsh music is heard as dim blue lights
come up. One after another, seven women run onto the stage from each of
the exits. They all freeze in postures of distress. The follow spot
picks up the lady in brown. She comes to life and looks around at the
other ladies. All of the others are still. She walks over to the lady in
red and calls to her. The lady in red makes no response.
lady in brown dark phrases of womanhood of never havin
been a girl half-notes scattered without rhythm/no tune distraught
laughter fallin over a black girl's shoulder it's funny/it's hysterical
the melody-less-ness of her dance don't tell nobody don't tell a soul
she's dancin on beer cans & shingles
it was graduation nite & i waz the
only virgin in the crowd bobby mills martin jerome & sammy yates
eddie jones & randi all cousins all the prettiest niggers in this
factory town carried me out wit em in a deep black buick smellin of
thunderbird & ladies in heat we rambled from camden to mount holly
laughin at the afternoon's speeches & danglin our tassles from the
rear view mirror climbin different sorta project stairs movin toward
snappin beer cans & GET IT GET IT THAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT MAMA all
mercer county graduated the same nite cosmetology secretarial
pre-college autoshop & business all us movin from mama to what ever
waz out there
this must be the spook house another song with no singers lyrics/no
voices & interrupted solos unseen performances
are we ghouls? children of horror? the joke?
don't tell nobody don't tell a soul are we animals? have we gone crazy?
i can't hear anythin but maddening screams & the soft strains of
death & you promised me you promised me... somebody/anybody sing a
black girl's song bring her out to know herself to know you but sing her
rhythms carin/struggle/hard times sing her song of life she's been dead
so long closed in silence so long she doesn't know the sound of her own
voice her infinite beauty she's half-notes scattered without rhythm/no
tune sing her sighs sing the song of her possibilities sing a righteous
gospel let her be born let her be born & handled warmly.
lady in brown i'm outside chicago
lady in yellow i'm outside detroit
lady in purple i'm outside houston
lady in red i'm outside baltimore
lady in green i'm outside san francisco
lady in blue i'm outside manhattan
lady in orange i'm outside st. louis
lady in brown & this is for colored girls who have considered
suicide but moved to the ends of their own rainbows.
everyone mama's little baby likes shortnin, shortnin, mama's
little baby likes shortnin bread mama's little baby likes shortnin,
shortnin, mama's little baby likes shortnin bread
little sally walker, sittin in a saucer rise, sally, rise, wipe your
weepin eyes an put your hands on your hips an let your backbone slip o,
shake it to the east o, shake it to the west shake it to the one that
you like the best
lady in purple you're it
As the lady in brown tags each of the other ladies they freeze. When
each one has been tagged the lady in brown freezes. Immediately "Dancing
in the Streets" by Martha and the Vandellas is heard. All of the ladies
start to dance. The lady in green, the lady in blue, and the lady in
yellow do the pony, the big boss line, the swim, and the nose dive. The
other ladies dance in place.
lady in yellow
that nite we raced a big ol truck from the barbeque stand trying to tell
him bout the party at jacqui's where folks graduated last year waz
waitin to hit it wid us i got drunk & cdnt figure out whose hand waz
on my thigh/but it didn't matter cuz these cousins martin eddie sammy
jerome & bobby waz my sweethearts alternately since the seventh
grade & everybody knew i always started cryin if somebody actually
tried to take advantage of me at jacqui's ulinda mason was stickin her
mouth all out while we tumbled out the buick eddie jones waz her lickin
stick but i knew how to dance it got soo hot vincent ramos puked all in
the punch & harly jumped all in tico's face cuz he was leavin for
the navy in the mornin hadda kick ass so we'd all remember how bad he
waz seems like sheila & marguerite waz fraid to get their hair
turnin back so they laid up against the wall lookin almost sexy didnt
wanna sweat but me & my fellas we waz dancin
since 1963 i'd won all kinda contests wid the cousins at the POLICE
ATHLETIC LEAGUE DANCES all mercer county knew any kin to martin yates cd
turn somersaults fore smokey robinson cd get a woman excited
The Dells singing "Stay" is heard
we danced doin nasty ol tricks
The lady in yellow sings along with the Dells for a
moment. The lady in orange and the lady in blue jump up and parody the
lady in yellow and the Dells. The lady in yellow stares at them. They
doin nasty ol tricks i'd been thinkin since may cuz graduation nite had
to be hot & i waz the only virgin so i hadda make like my hips waz
inta some business that way everybody thot whoever was gettin it was a
older man cdnt run the streets wit youngsters martin slipped his leg
round my thigh the dells bumped "stay" up & down-up & down the
new carver homes WE WAZ GROWN WE WAZ FINALLY GROWN
ulinda alla sudden went crazy went over to eddie cursin & carryin on
tearin his skin wid her nails the cousins tried to talk sense to her
tried to hold her arms lissin bitch sammy went on bobby whispered i shd
go wit him fore they go ta cuttin fore the police arrived we teetered
silently thru the parkin lot no un uhuh we didn't know nothin bout no
party bobby started lookin at me yeah he started looking at me real
strange like i waz a woman or somethin/ started talkin real soft in the
backseat of that ol buick WOW by daybreak i just cdnt stop grinnin.
The Dells singing "Stay" comes in and all of the ladies
except the lady in blue join in and sing along.
lady in blue you gave it up in a buick?
lady in yellow yeh, and honey, it was wonderful.
lady in green we used to do it all up in the dark in the
lady in blue some niggah sweating all over you.
lady in red it was good!
lady in blue i never did like to grind.
lady in yellow what other kind of dances are there?
lady in blue mambo, bomba, merengue
when i waz sixteen i ran off to the south bronx cuz i waz gonna meet up
wit willie colon & dance all the time mamba bomba merengue
lady in yellow do you speak spanish?
lady in blue ol&$224; my papa thot he was puerto rican & we
wda been cept we waz just reglar niggahs wit hints of spanish so off i
made it to this 36 hour marathon dance con salsa con ricardo
'suggggggggggar' ray on southern blvd next door to this fotografi place
jammed wit burial weddin & communion relics next door to la real
ideal genuine spanish barber up up up up up stairs & stairs &
lotsa hallway wit my colored new jersey self didn't know what anybody
waz saying cept if dancin waz proof of origin i was jibarita herself
that nite & the next day i kept smilin & right on steppin if he
cd lead i waz ready to dance if he cdnt lead i caught this attitude i'd
seen rosa do & wd not be bothered i waz twirlin hippin givin much
quik feet & bein a mute cute colored puerto rican til saturday
afternoon when the disc-jockey say 'SORRY FOLKS WILLIE COLON AINT GONNA
MAKE IT TODAY' & alla my niggah temper came outta control & i
wdnt dance wit nobody & i talked english loud & i love you more
than i waz mad uh huh uh huh more than more than when i discovered
archie shepp & subtle blues doncha know i wore out the magic of juju
heroically resistin being possessed oooooooooooooh the sounds sneakin in
under age to slug's to stare ata real 'artiste' & every word outta
imamu's mouth waz gospel & if jesus cdnt play a horn like shepp
waznt no need for colored folks to bear no cross at all
& poem is my thank-you for music & i love you more than poem
more than aureliano buendia loved macondo more than hector lavoe loved
himself more than the lady loved gardenias more than celia loves cuba or
graciela loves el son more than the flamingoes shoo-do-n-doo-wah love
oyeè neégro te amo mas que te amo mas que when you play yr
everyone (very softly) te amo mas que te amo mas que
lady in red without any assistance or guidance from you i have
loved you assiduously for 8 months 2 wks & a day i have been stood
up four times i've left 7 packages on yr doorstep
Copyright © 1975, 1976, 1977 by Ntozake
Excerpted from "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange. Copyright © 1997 by Ntozake Shange. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.