Directed by Anthony Mark Stockard, performed by Norfolk State University, Dillard Auditorium – WSSU Albert H. Anderson Jr. Conference Center

Tickets and showtimes can be found here.

Before Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay, there was Ntozake

The black playwright and poet who came to prominence in the
mid to late 1970s wrote countless works that addressed issues relating to gender
and race. A self-proclaimed black feminist, Shange often wrote about the
struggles that black women and girls faced.

Her first and most influential work, created when she was
just 27, is titled For Colored Girls Who
Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf
, and will be performed at
this year’s festival by students from Norfolk State University. The choreopoem,
in which a series of poetic monologues accompanies dance movements and music,
tells the story of seven women — each dressed in a different color of the
rainbow — who have suffered oppression in a racist and sexist society. Despite
being a few decades old, the subject matter of For Colored Girls is just as relevant today as it was in 1976 when
the work first premiered. The work covers topics like love, empowerment,
sisterhood, sexual assault and abortion.

“The idea of black women being so candid, so open was
unheard of,” says Anthony Stockard, the director of the drama and theater
program at Norfolk State University. “It was revolutionary, bold. They hadn’t
been given a platform like that before.”

Stockard, who first saw the play when he was in college and
has been directing the work at Norfolk since 2015, says that many of student
actors have strong reactions when confronting the piece. He notes how one male
student got so emotional after one rehearsal that he ended up calling his mom
to tell her that he loved her. For the female students, he says it is even more

“They have a deep reaction because they are speaking truth
through their characters but also through their own lived experiences,” he

Stockard says he often lets the female students lead group
discussions and allows them to work with his assistant director, a woman, alone
for some sessions to give them space.

“There’s just a daily reaffirmation of value and admiration
for them and what they deal with and the burdens they carry that are uniquely
appropriated to them. It’s consistently enlightening and it’s a continuous
discovery of what it means to be human. [The play] has universality in that

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