For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Broadway Revivals.

Playwright Ntozake Shange, right

Entertainment Weekly announced yesterday that Whoopi Goldberg, in conjunction with DreamTeam Entertainment, will produce the first-ever Broadway revival of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf. Legendary choreographer Hinton Battle has signed on, as well as Shirley Jo Finney, who’s slated to direct.

Though no theatre has been announced for the run, the production is scheduled to begin previews in mid-July, with opening night to fall in mid-August.

Oh, and did we mention that India.Arie has already been cast as one of the seven women featured in the play?

Since there are six others to be cast, feel free to weigh in with your votes below.

But before you do, let’s talk Black Broadway actresses for a second, shall we? In the past decade, a few Tony-winning power players have emerged on the Great White Way: Audra McDonald, Anika Noni Rose, Tonya Pinkins, Phylicia Rashad, if you need a matriarch or elder stateswoman… but, now that it’s become “the thing” to infuse these esteemed theatrical productions with pop stars and film luminaries to bring in bigger receipts, we wonder if truly great, classically trained unknowns still stand a chance at breaking onto Broadway.

Things aren’t what they used to be for the Juilliard alums and Yale drama grads who dream of starry-eyed debuts in A Chorus Line (not when they’re squandering roles on the likes of Mario Lopez). Stories about apple-faced youths living on ramen for years at a stretch so they can spend all their extra waitressing tips on vocal and dance training, while living in a closet on the Lower East Side just aren’t ending happily as often. You hear less about some lucky unknown scoring a starring role in Chicago after nailing an open casting call and more about Nicole Ritchie being considered for Roxie Hart. Nicole Ritchie, who has never shown any acting nor singing nor dancing ability to speak of.

And if it’s like that for the white kids, who are having to return to Winnetka and Kenosha and all their other landlocked cities of origin to hang-headedly tell their sad tales of having lost role after role to Jennifer Garner, Claire Danes, or Christina Aguilera, how much more is it gonna be like that for the black kids, who don’t get nearly as many opportunities to even audition for productions—unless some “progressive director” or Oprah decides to put on an “all-Black” production of a formerly all-white show or, even less often, precariously secures financial backing for the revival of an old Black classic, or less often still, miraculously manages to get a brand-new Black show off the ground?

If it’s hard out here for a stage-player, it’s even harder out here for a Black playwright.

This new Whoopi Goldberg production marks the first time in over thirty years For Colored Girls has seen a Broadway stage (It opened a two-year run back in 1976). That means that if you’re a Black drama student, hoping that the existence of great Black plays will eventually lead to great Black stage roles, you could conceivably be waiting for decades before there’s something meaningful, worthwhile, and intended for a Black actor. By all accounts, critics agreed that the Raisin remake wouldn’t have gotten the greenlight without Diddy. So if you’re a Black playwright, you might be waiting even longer than that drama student to see one of your projects hit Broadway.

And if Black male theatre majors are losing roles to Diddy and Usher, who finished a stint as lawyer Billy Flynn in a 2006 Chicago production, think about how scarce great parts are for Black women. Let’s not forget that Rashad “made history” just four years ago by snagging the first-ever Best Actress Tony for an African American for this revival of A Raisin in the Sun I juuust can’t seem to get away from having to talk about.

So… India.Arie, huh? She could be great. And you can count on at least one of those aforementioned Tony winners to join her in this show. Since Anika Noni Rose will likely be too busy with her Disney film, the two other films she has in the works, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to squeeze this in, our money’s on Audra to sign on next. But you know every pop singer worth her salt’s gonna show up to try out for this, right? You know we’re gonna wind up with, like, Alicia Keys, Beyonce (after she finishes playing Etta James in yet another egregious bout of miscasting), Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jennifer Hudson rounding out this cast, with one other real Broadway actress thrown in to legitimize the proceedings.

We could be wrong. If we’re lucky, they’ll get Taraji P. Henson to take over the role one of the above abandons once she realizes it conflicts with her South African concert tour.


slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: and here:
  • B!

    Thanks for this post. I had the many of the same thoughts when I first read about India Arie being cast.
    I know quite a few Black girls, who’ve been studying theater since high school and have experienced some real hard blows after getting pretty far in an audition process only to see the role go to another pop tart. I’ve always thought of stage plays as the one place one can truly catch a break, but every year, more shine is given to those who already got it. Those who are trying to just get one minor role remain overshadowed by celebrities.

    So, even though part of me secretly wants Erykah Badu to play one of the women, I’m really rooting for the yet-to-be-knowns this go round, including a friend who would be AMAZING as the woman in yellow.

  • slb

    I thought of Erykah Badu, too, but I think it was only because of the homage she paid the play/choreopoem in her “Bag Lady” video.

    Thanks for posting. I agree with your sentiment that the stage used to be the last place where classical training mattered (as there are so many nuances to nailing every single performance with no do-overs that you can’t possibly just look pretty or handsome and fall into a successful Broadway career), but now it’s becoming the kind of place where a singer or film star can just stroll in for a one-time show and steal a big break from someone who’s spent years and years toiling in some serious drama program.

    I get that it’s a money thing, but that doesn’t make it any less unfortunate.

  • L-Boogs

    I’ve been a HUGE Audra McDonald since I saw her in “Ragtime.” So, on the flip side, I’m wondering who is waiting in the wings for their chance to shine? Black Hollywood stars I’m proud to call sistren include Sanaa Lathan (who studied at Yale Drama, so I am certain she can handle the weightiness of this production), Regina King (could be nice and raw), and Kimberly Elise (this woman can evoke any emotion…LITERALLY!) Offhand, I’ll throw Kerry Washington and Nia Long in their too. If, by some magnificent oddity, a young Angela Bassett or Alfre Woodard is out there, that could also be a wonderful experience to witness…

  • while i like Kimberly Elise, she does *one* emotion really well: the indignant-cry-with-the-lone-tear.

    This is a cousin to Terrance Howard’s welled-up-quivery-voice thing that he does in every. single. movie.

  • Joy

    Well, considering this is my all-time favorite play/poem they had better put some thought into this. I am just hoping they don’t try to cast the “it” girl of the moment. This is not an “it” girl of the moment play. This is serious business. Don’t play with me Whoopi!

    Nia’s not right. Kerry’s not right. Gabrielle—Hells No! Sanaa maybe. Regina yes. Taraji yes. Regina Taylor YES…. I know people might consider her too old for this part now, but I don’t. Jada might be able to pull it off.

  • Jada? Jada’s presence is always a bad omen as to the quality of a production. I’m not sure how, but that’s just how it works. (For white people, the Jada Pinkett Effect is called the Kate Beckinsale Effect.)

    I can’t definitively prove that she ruined the Matrix sequels, but it’s not a coincidence that she was in them and they both sucked.

  • ebony

    Im waiting for the REAL COLORED GIRL to be discovered! The one whos been through some things and can bring life to this piece. The one who put in countless hours in school, hustlin to make ends meat while never giving up on her dreams. All of the women mentioned are more than capable of doing this but arent we tired of seeing the same ol’ faces? Why dont we give somebody new a chance to eat! There’s room for us all!

  • Trineka

    Ladies, I’m not an actress but I am a literary snob. So I, too, tire of seeing these pop tarts (I like that) take roles that should be reserved for more deserving actresses. In addition, I’m just not a fan of India. Nonetheless, I LOVE NTOZAKE. I had the great pleasure of meeting her at NC Black Theatre Festival a couple years ago. Though I’m not an actress, I performed this choreo/poem in my freshman year of college (very very small time) and I just fell in love with the piece. I’m really looking forward to seeing this performed live on Broadway.

    Does anyone have any idea how I get on an email list to make sure I’m notified when the production details are finalized?

  • qe

    what a well-written, thought-provoking piece.

    “the star/famous person vs the unknown” is quite the conundrum in mainstream theater today. i’m a black woman that’s worked professionally in theaer for quite some time — as a solo performer, playwright and actor — and although i continue to work strategically, the star process is a bigger part of the reason why i’m transitioning to film/tv/commercials.

    we “unknowns” are doing quite well, thank you very much. we just aren’t famous.

    the concensus is, maybe when i get cast in a popular sitcom or sell a few million CDs, someone will cast me in a lead role in a broadway production.

    evidently, ned beatty agrees with me.

    here’s a bottom line for you: theater usually doesn’t pay and when it does, it doesn’t necessarily pay enough to live on unless you’re doing broadway or you’re on the road. this, combined with the dearth of work for actors of color and it’s a wonder there are any of us out here auditioning at all.

    here’s another bottom line: it takes 7 to 9 years on the average to develop a musical under the best of circumstances (grants, mentors, etc.) — for a play, perhaps 5 to 7 years. there’s a lot of great material out there but in this culture of instant gratification and money first/art second, no one wants to risk millions to produce them. that’s why tried-and-true revivals are so popular. and just about everything on Broadway right now is a revival.

    my bet is, they’ll revive “dreamgirls” and “the wiz” any minute now. i wonder who’ll garner the starring roles?

    here’s what gives me hope: black playwrights/musicians with origninal voices can find a home for their material with theaters like The Public. their latest effort, “Passing Strange”, is a Black rock-n’-roll coming of age story that was developed at the theater lab at sundance and the public theater for years. it’s on broadway right now. absolutely everyone is raving about how brilliant it is.

    there aren’t any famous black people in it, though — just talented dedicated theater performers (it’s an all black cast) — so i’m wondering: have any of you seen it?

  • c

    Hello everyone. I read the replies and everyone seems to same nearly the same thing. Yes we are all tired on Musicians taking roles that actors could have. I am also a little leary of a film star taking a role that a broadway star or up and coming actor or a broadway actor from another state could do. Look at Tracy Thomas, a few years ago she co-starred with Alfre Woodard in Drowning Crows on Broadway now she is in The Devils Wears Prada and Rent. We forget there is a lot of talent out there and a lot of good black talent out there. many names I read I agree with, don’t forget Lachnaze from The Color Purple, she can also act. I won’t name any others because there are several great actresses out there I witnesses a young woman by the name of Lisa Roxane Walters go toe to toe with phenomenal veteran Phyllis Yvonne Stickney in a reading. It was like watching a masters class. We tend to overlook our up and coming and say oh we have to get the best and fail to see sometime our best is the best in their genre (film) Let the stage actresses get the work due. Not many all black stage plays with big money and heavy backing come our way. So let’s please keep that in mind. Some actors make the switch well others don’t. Some that’s all they do and all they won’t to do.

  • Dee

    I remember my mother going to see the Broadway production. I used to play the album on the record player. I was twelve, now at 44 tears came to my eyes as I realize why she so loved this play. She went on to glory in 2007, and she told me never to forget God’s promises. Her first granddaughter, aged 21 had the honor of playing the woman in orange for her Babson College production this year. Again, I cried and rejoiced. I look forward to seeing this production. Bravo!

  • C. Stewart

    At fifteen years of age this was the first Broadway play my mother took me to see. I also remember the original PBS version on NY’s channel 13. I fell in love with Alfre Woodard’s as an actrist, she was phenomenal. Another version was produced but that one included scenery and men. Years later I took my daughter to see a college perform the play. I still have the original book in hardcover and I purchased the DVD. I also attempted to see the original PBS version at Lincoln Center to no avail as I was not in college and it would only have been made available for viewing for research purposes. It is so ironic that only recently I loaned both my book and DVD to a woman with a promising future whom I believe received the honor of being named the top female poet in America or something of that nature. So as you can probably tell this remake or reproduction is very important to me and I will be following closely. This is such a strong body of work that they needn’t put in the “big names” to garner an audience. I didn’t know Alre Woodard from a can of paint and look at her now!

  • elliemaehoya

    I was really excited when I was on India.Arie’s website and saw she’d be in this… until I saw this post! Now I’m kinda depressed, especially because I do theatre and I feel for the people trying to make it. All I can say is I hope they’ll find some non-stars for the rest of the roles so I can enjoy my girl India without feeling guilty!

  • vanessa

    yeah, it’s really disappointing to see pop stars in leading roles on Broadway. When you have the likes of a LaChanze (Color Purple Tony Award) and Audra MacDonald. I would really love to see a stage actress lead this show. hell, i want to be in the show. i’m an actress and would love to be the lady in orange! Nothing against India Arie she is a talented songstress, did you hear what i said? SONGSTRESS!!! maybe India Arie will only do it for a short time and then someone like Lachanze could take over as the lady in red!

  • bagheera_1

    Jasmine Guy is going to direct this same play in Atlanta this summer. :-)

  • ef

    I saw jasmine guy’s production of colored girls today in atlanta at the 14th street theatre. It was absolutely wonderful. All the ladies were incredible and blew me away. Lady in Red broke me and had me in tears.

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  • christine

    did the play ever get started this august? did it hit the travel to Atlanta yet? i thought it was supposed to be in atl this october.

  • NB

    Why is it so easy to assume that India Arie has no acting training? She’s definitely not your typical pop star so it’s quite possible that she could be outstanding in this role. Everyone knows someone or has some friend that’s outstanding and should be in the role etc. I don’t know it just irritates me how judgmental people are with this issue.

  • Unfortunately, the Broadway play did not happen, as we all know. However, For Colored Girls broke attendance records for a year in Los Angeles following its Broadway run – and then went on a 3 year national tour. NOW after 30 years, Visart is bringing For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf to the professional stage in Los Angeles, after a 30+ year absence. Feature film composer Carrie Cain Sparks is music director, and the show combines new musical arrangements with music originally done in the show… If you are in the L.A. area in February 2011, make sure you check it out – it is an exclusive limited run! See the official website for For Colored Girls the play