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
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.
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