When Ntozake Shange, acknowledged worldwide as a master writer in many genres, left our world for a better place, she bequeathed for future generations an extensive body of work, including 15 plays, 19 poetry collections, seven novels, five children’s books, three collections of essays, a partial memoir, and major achievements in music and dance.
Her “choreopoem” for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf is Shange’s masterwork, acclaimed as a theater classic and acknowledged as foundational in the history of theater. Written in 1975, it combines the spoken word with poetry, music and dance. Much of her work was made or adapted for performance onstage, for it was theater where her radical explorations combining form and genre could be realized. Shange’s major contribution, the “choreopoem”, was a new theatrical genre she invented that incorporates the spoken word as a prominent element – thereby widening the creative palette and transforming theater.
The piece first opened on Broadway in 1976. It became a hit show and stands as the longest-running play by an African American writer in Broadway history. It is also credited as the first feminist play to succeed on Broadway. The play has been performed continuously ever since as part of the canon and was made into a major motion picture by Tyler Perry in 2010. A revival of for colored girls … produced by the Public Theater in 2019 received awards for best revival, musical composition, choreography, and more, including five Antonyo Awards, the 2020 Outer Critics Circle Award, two 2020 Lucille Lortel Awards, three Audelco “Viv” Awards, and “THE 2020 DRAMA DESK AWARD”.
A major Broadway revival is coming in 2021.
Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance, is the first work of Ntozake Shange published posthumously in 2020 by Beacon Press. Shange was an insightful dancer and choreographer. In Dance We Do she reveals her personal as well as an historical perspective of the roots of much of today’s American dance. The book chronicles for the first time some of the greatest and most influential dancers and choreographers of the latter part of the twentieth century. As a teacher and theorist, Shange charts the living history of Black dance, drawing on her own past to celebrate the Black body in movement and in art and the connection between body and brain. Her work was a precursor to racial justice movements of today as she demonstrated that Black bodies, Black minds and Black lives matter.
In this book, Shange exhibits a lifelong passion for dance akin to her passion for words. Indeed, critic Jennifer Dunning, author of Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance, sees Ntozake Shange “a dancer first” who “writes of her art with passion and humor.” The book has been widely reviewed with acclaim and is currently available.
Produced by Southern Repertory Theatre,
New Orleans, LA
Produced by the Negro Ensemble Company
Directed by Ifa Bayeza
New York, NY
CELEBRATING TWO 2020 LUCILLE LORTEL AWARDS
The Public Theater—Outstanding Revival
Tony Leslie James—Outstanding Costume Design
THREE AUDELCO “VIV” AWARDSToni-Leslie James—Outstanding Costume Design Martha Redbone—Outstanding Musical ComposerBest Revival of a Play—-The NY Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater
FIVE “ANTONYO” AWARDSBest Revival–The Public TheaterBest Featured Actor in a Play Off-Broadway–Okwui Okpokwasili Best Choreography—Camille A. Brown Best Costumes—-Toni Leslie JamesBest Hair & Wig Design—Nikiya Mathis
THE 2020 OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDThe Public Theater—Best Revival of a PlayTHE 2020 DRAMA DESK AWARD Martha Redbone——–Outstanding Music in a Play
Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus
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