Monthly Archives: July 2013

#5 ~ For Colored Girls: Production

This can be summed up perfectly in the FCG journey: No matter how prepared you are, be prepared.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

#4 ~ For Colored Girls: Dark Phrases

The first poem that opens FCG is entitled ‘Dark Phrases’. One of the last poems to be written, it begins as a lament, a lament for the (lost or stolen) womanhood of black women.

 

dark phrases of womanhood

of never gavin been a girl

half-notes scattered

without rhythm/no tune

distraught laughter fallin

over a black girls shoulder

As a director, an actress, and a former english student, before I can translate the above words into action and stage craft, I need to be conscious of both syntax and semantics. Shange’s style is characterised by its colloquialism.  It carries the ease of natural speech, and yet it has been altered and adulterated to incorporate a poetic rhythm, a lilt and melody. The most obvious conceit throughout the play is the use of colour. The first hint to the colour spectrum we get is a shade. Shadism is a problem within black culture and stems from the racial discrimination that has dogged non-white individuals for generations. It is a discrimination in which the darker you are the less attractive you are the less desirable, the less ‘good’ or wholesome. It feeds into the dichotomy of black : white, evil:good, that fuelled institutions and regimes such as the Slave Trade, Apartheid and pre-civil rights America.

‘dark phrases of womanhood’,  alludes to shadism and colour dichotomy, insinuating a pain, a darkness and danger that haunts the growth of a woman of colour. It generates the image  of an aborted or stolen childhood, a neglected or abused innocence which has created this coloured woman who has ‘never been a girl’.

When I set out to create my own production of this phenomenal and well-known piece, I had a deep urge and awareness to include music. Each of the poems are themselves scattered and infused with musical references. It isn’t just about speaking the word, song is presented as intrinsic to the liberation of the coloured woman. When her song, her lyrical voice is silenced, it is a sonic destruction of her physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being. It is the oppressive removal of a life. What is left is terror, anxiety and  a discordant life that has no melody, no tune, no future and no purpose or recognition.

Watch this space to see how we take these concepts and use music and light in our production.

Follow us on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FCGLondon

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FCGLondon

Or : http://www.twitter.com/Justina_Kehinde

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#3 ~ For Colored Girls: Beginning

How to start a play. Or perhaps, instead of a statement, a question – how do you start a play?

It’s a tricky question. Often I jump to the end, to the applause, the emotion, the adrenaline and the sleep that follows. But how to begin. How to harness the reeking anticipation of your audience and the nervous sweat of your cast as you dare to produce something spectacular.

The first stage is the atmosphere. Yesterday, crammed into London Underground i read through the first page of the script. The Stage Directions state:

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 at the other ladies. All of the others are still. 

I start scribbling furiously. In those precious few moments, the audience have to shift from excitement and curiosity to an uncomfortable awareness that something ominous is coming. Something painful. On one hand I start thinking about the lighting design. How the colour of that blue has to sear through the audience and automatically communicate an iciness, a pain, that mirrors the tortured freeze frames of the actresses. Moreover, music is flowing through my mind. What kind of music? How will that Am arpeggio modulate, or the use of the cymbals create a discord, a screeching sound, and perhaps the thrumming of the bass get people’s pulse rising like the hairs on their arms. It’s all about setting the scene before we move onto the first poem.

‘Dark Phrases’.

But that’s for later on today.

Join the journey.

Follow us on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FCGLondon

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FCGLondon

Or : http://www.twitter.com/Justina_Kehinde

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#2 ~ For Colored Girls London: Reading the Foreword

One of the most beautiful aspects of putting on ‘FCG’ again, is revisiting ‘old friends’. Old poems and known characters who spoke to me with aggression when I was a fresh 18-year-old, excitement when I was 19, and now, at 20, with a depth, a caution, a humanity.

The first time I approached the script  all the words were literal. The poems, ranging from the very brief but powerful ‘Abortion Cycle 1’, to the long, lyrical lament of ‘Sechita’, were so vibrant, so forceful in their barraging voices all seeking to take centre stage, that the idea of analysing and challenging my first impressions was absurd. Of course Sechita should be a lament, she’s a washed up dancer who is serenaded by chipped coins that are dashed through the air to bounce on her thighs, which aren’t lovingly creamed with coco butter, but stained with sweat, smoke and semen.

However, as I read Shange’s forward to the second edition of the ‘For Colored Girls […]’, I see that the Lady in Purple’s persona is much more than that. Sechita’s journey is not just the degradation of a woman, but of a nation, a history and a people. It tells the story of the demise of the black African, from inventors and rulers of the Ancient world, to the chattel that powered the Industrial Revolution of the West.

I see that the Lady in Orange’s exposure to ‘mambo, tango, meringue’, in the dance halls of America, is a journey of discovery. The same discovery of other black people, communities, cruelty, misogyny and adventure that the Lady in Brown experiences when she meets Toussaint ‘in de library’.

I see that, whoever wrote the tag line for Tyler Perry’s bedraggled attempt at transforming page to cinema, was right in one respect. It is one poem, one story, one woman, one life – but told through many voices. Like the colours that form a single rainbow, it is the journey of a people, of nations, of humanity, embodied in one unified story of fractured experiences.

I look forward to the days I shall spend scrutinising these poems, these voices, and women as I seek to join them into my own cloth, my own woven pattern of a history, of a woman, of a colourful identity.

Join the journey.

Follow us on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FCGLondon

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FCGLondon

Or : http://www.twitter.com/Justina_Kehinde

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#1 ~ For Colored Girls London

Image by Rosa Johan Uddoh

Image by Rosa Johan Uddoh

November 2012. 11pm. Cambridge. An audience of 50 people, predominantly made up of student journalists and hard-core late night theatre-goers sat in the Fitzpatrick Hall of Queen’s College and waited as an arpeggio in A minor played out to setting blue lights. My production of Ntozake Shange’s ‘For Colored Girls [who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf]’, had landed. Directing, co-producing and acting in the show had many challenges. Yet, when the four and five-star reviews rained in, and the seats filled up to maximum capacity, I could only smile and get ready for three more nights of incredible action as we made theatrical history.

The first time an all black all female cast had ever graced a Cambridge stage, the play follows the lives of seven women identified solely by the colour of their clothing. A combination of spoken word poetry, physical theatre, music and dance ‘For Colored Girls’ is an evocative social critique that gives a piercingly authentic look at urban life through the brash lens of beautifully unrefined poetry. Tackling experiences of rape, domestic violence, infidelity and sisterhood ‘For Colored Girls’  takes its characters and audience on a liberating journey to the end of their rainbows, all the while coloured by a saucy wink of humour and sass, powerful music, dance and that ephemeral attribute referred to as ‘soul’.

So, with all that underway and with people asking for more, I crazily got the idea to take the show to London, my home city. Why not go for gold? Sadly, though I am a creative at heart, a production requires more than just an artistic eye – it requires financing and budgeting. Teaming up with one of the actress, Ifeyinwa Frederick, we sat up till 4am one  night in March and planned this next step in the story – For Colored Girls…London.

For over 6 months we have been planning, contacting, hustling, designing, straining our eyes at computer screens, sending rapid fire emails, lamenting over Nokia 100 phones that don’t have MultiMedia Messaging, all to bring us to this point: the promotional Launch date of For Colored Girls London.

I know I’ve been quiet for a few months since ending the 365 blog, but today, i’d like to invite you to journey with me once again as I direct, act and co-produce in Ntozake Shange’s phenomenal piece of theatre. It’s going to be raw, bloody, exhilarating, exhausting and inspiring – but we’ve done it before.

So welcome to the Death of the Writer, the Death of the Director, Co-Producer and Actress and the Birth of…For Colored Girls London 2013.

Get Excited.

Follow us on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FCGLondon

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FCGLondon

Or : http://www.twitter.com/Justina_Kehinde

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,