For Colored Girls – Stories of Suicide & Survival

Mary Ellen Lowney, Publisher

With a stark setting consisting of just eight folding chairs, the AIC Garret Players brought the female African-American experience of the1970s to life last month in a compelling production of ‘For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.’

The hour-long production on March 28 drew a packed and enthusiastic crowd to the West Wing for a staged reading of the play, which features true stories of eight women, including the main author Ntozake Shange.

Reading from the script, actors in AIC’s theater club revealed the depth, complexity, poetry, passion and angst of the eight young women coming of age at the height of the women’s movement and in the wake of the civil rights movement.

With plainspoken words about some of life’s greatest pains as well as pleasures, the barefoot and plainly clad actors spoke of issues including romance, love, heartache, infidelity, rape, theft, solidarity, education, and the brutal murder of one character’s children at the hands of their father.

Director Frank Borrelli, who is also director of AIC’s theater program, said working with the actors was nothing short of a pleasure.

“They’ve worked hard and they’ve done beautifully,” Borrelli said. “Many of these women hadn’t been in a formal production before so this was a new experience for them. Some of them will continue working in our Theater Department.”

Borrelli said that from now on there will be a staged reading by the Garret Players each semester, in addition to the full production he heads up. The Garret Players have been active on campus for the past 75 years, he noted in his introduction to this production.

Actors were Kayla Barnett, Drahcir Dickson, Kyla Foxx-Bivens, Melika Jackson, Clarensa McCreary, Dawn Shaw, Jean Williams and Lizzie Williams.

As they read the frequently emotional dialogue from the characters they portrayed, actors stood up at times alone, at times in pairs and at times all together, sometimes dancing, and frequently raising their pained voices to a shout. The scene where one woman watches her erstwhile lover drop her two babies from an apartment window was particularly painful, with the mother’s aching agony achingly clear, and the group around her mourning and comforting at once.

Following the production, actors and audience agreed that ‘Colored Girls’ was an unqualified success.

“Honestly, it was one of the most memorable experiences I can recall,” said actor and AIC student Kayla Barnett, whose character was called ‘Lady in Blue.’

“I learned a lot in terms of respecting every woman’s journey in life. It was such a pleasure speaking for women who are victims of domestic violence and other tragedies,” she said.

Audience member Maria Bayman said she was moved by the play.

“It was an eye-opener,” said Bayman, a freshman at Springfield Technical Community College who is majoring in criminal justice.

“It was great to get into the minds of certain colored women, and hear what they are feeling and experiencing. I loved it,” Bayman said.

AIC senior Belky Otero-Rodriguez, herself an actor in several AIC productions, spoke of the performance in superlatives.

“It was the best,” she said. “It was very powerful. I was actually tearing up at the end.”

Her friend Jasmine Kearse, another familiar presence on the AIC stage, said simply, “I loved it. Amazing.”

Another AIC senior, Malik Copper, agreed.

“It was good. It was real good,” he said, adding, “The actors did such a great job. You could tell how hard they worked.”