Whose World is This Wednesday: Chile You is Colored!

Black girls with father issues, social and sexual outcasts, and feminist, have upheld Ntozake Shange as their earthly god mother.  The motherless children curled up in the fetal position to “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf”. Shange’s magnum opus was a self-help, realization of the original Vagina Power that gave these devotees a voice.  This choreopoem is the bible for any emerging poet/writer/playwright/lover of words.  Coffee houses around the country reverberated with pulsating rhythms of Shange’s influence.

the uncapitalized/no punctuated lines/forward slashes/n/abbreviated wds captivated these women.  A voice unheard of in the poetry community for women prior to the 1970s-this raw, unkept, nappy headed voice has justified many a woman’s relationship issues.  Even Ms. Window Seat herself got in the act with her Bag Lady homage.

The first full length play I directed in college was For Colored Girls (Who didn’t direct this play?).  I was curious as to why there were no men physically in the play.  I felt like men got a bad rap because we, the audience, couldn’t see them for what they were really doing.  We only heard the accounts through another woman’s voice.  So I added men to the play. Yeah, maybe I wasn’t such a feminist after all.

But oh Tyler Perry is a feminist. He’s gotta be.  He has made his living from giving women the voice silenced after Ms. Shange’s departure from the literary world.  He’s heard the cries-women were  tired. TIRED!  Eventually he knew that the films he produced had to step out of the drag shadows of a gun-tottin’ grandma and become well…real.  So when stories of filmmaker Nzingha Stewart writing and directing the film version of For Colored Girls began to surface-the ultimate of a black woman’s lament-Perry had to squeeze his hand over the idea and shell out the dough (which he has PLENTY of) to make that poem a filmed reality.

What’s fascinating is that these same down-trodden women who spent money on head wraps and cowrie shells are now business executives/lawyers/doctors/artists. They are past those hungry days of finding oneself. Some of these women actually support 34th Street Films.  I support his endeavors. I know…shock.  But for different reasons.

So why should I hate on it? The New York Times interviewed Ms. Shange;  “I think it’s very good,” was Ms. Shange’s unhesitant verdict on Mr. Perry’s adaptation. “He kept a lot of my language, that’s what I liked most.”  She seems positive.

You know there will be a lot of skeptics. Mainly because the language and choreopoem style are difficult.  The rhythm is that of it’s own world.  But Tyler Perry isn’t on trial here. It’s the skeptics that have held this work to a high esteem.  I’m not saying that’s the wrong thing to do.  But has Ms. Shange actually written anything as large as For Colored Girls since? This Obie winning drama has been sitting on shelves of bookstores as one of the few theatre works for Black artist. Why are we so quick to dog out Perry for wanting to revitalize this work? Regardless of how he attained it.  That’s always his M-O.  He revitalizes forgotten Black Hollywood.

One of the themes I explored in my staged version is the god that the “voice” of these 7 women in For Colored Girls found by the end of the piece. “i found god in myself and i loved her/i loved her fiercely.”  This trailer seems too heavy.  I read somewhere that it feels like “The Women of Brewsters Place.”  I am not a fan of the trailer but I think we should lay off of T.P...another shock.

I’m not saying I support the idea but what are we really gripping about?  He listened to the woes and gnashing of the teeth.  He said he’d “step it up.”  So-what is it now? I may have chuckled at Meda Goes to Jail or raised a smile at one of his other shows. But I can honestly say…ok.  Give the man a break. I really don’t care what he decides to do.  He has the money to continue to make the films he wants.  I’m so over the conversation about is he “worthy” enough to produce this film or that. I don’t feel any sort of way about it. It’s done, it will continue to be done.  Move on people.

Through the sorrow and pain of these women’s trails and tribulations…there was an uplifting realization at the end.  We shall see how this all pans out.  Until then…check out the trailer.

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15 Comments

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  1. TCC you’ve done it again! You need to send this one to a magazine! I love the musicality of how you wrote this!!!Send it to Village Voice or Chicago Reader!!! Something! I started thinkin, Ntozake invented text speak! WHAT!!! I like this evolution! I think this is a good way to move past T.P. and focus on Tofu Chitlin’!!! (I will post on blog.)

  2. Thanks RW! I will take your suggestions. We’ll see what happens! Keep your fingers crossed!

  3. I muddle back and forth on this debate often. I have two minds about it. I speak as a man proud of my brother Tyler for all that he has overcome and wanted to laud his triumph through starving artistry and the ole’ fashion crawfish andouille chitlin’ circuit that is New Orleans theater to build an organization employing all those other folk that like himself, Hollywood had discarded as unusable. I speak as a son to a mother, my lifelong best friend, who has struggled to be emotionally in tune with the voices of women and sisters throughout his life to better or worse result and hopefully provide some reasonable disagreement when male privilege reared its gruesome face.

    I understand that there is considerable disdain for Tyler Perry and the films that he has chosen to release. I haven’t seen an argument whose premise I agree with as to why that is true, but I understand it nonetheless. I am not offended by the appearance of the occasional 1-dimensional stereotypical trope or his playing upon my emotional heartstrings with fractured characters of enormous personal content beating their fists against the bitter world or the happy go lucky ever after endings that wash alight every bit of pain in the light of prayer and gospel music and Jesus. I won’t ever agree with every image that appears in a Tyler Perry film, but when Idris Elba beat the spittle out of Gary Sturgis and got off dred scott free, I pounded the pavement with him and presented myself before the judge because I have a daughter and I felt that rage.

    I don’t know what direction Tyler Perry intends to lead towards with the film and this is the first time that I have watched the trailer through. I have “almost watched” it a number of times before as various people complained, griped, cheered, and saluted it on Facebook. I engaged a few short debates at the outset, but have settled on one talking point which I am delighted to have found agreement with others upon, “Just watch the movie.” At the end of that opening day, you can return to treating him like the last piece of steak in Michael Vick’s basement.

    I would disagree on the Women of Brewster Place point. I love/hate/love/hate the Women of Brewster Place or more accurately the film portrayal of the Women of Brewster Place although it ended with the triumphant tearing down of the wall. I know what happened next in life. Another wall went up. Less visible than before. A line no hire than a 3 foot chain link fence that folks might just as easily sprint over were they so inclined. Still locked and shackled in the same cage of a neighborhood as before. Life can be quite unhappy and I need a popcorn no butter and a big screen and the vision that any man would be fool enough to leave Jill Scott on her own and a certain satisfaction when she smashed that wine bottle over his head. Are you sensing that I have rage suppression issues? Might be true. Guess I might want to go put my reserve tickets in for the premiere.

  4. Wow, powerful. And I agree.

  5. Honestly, I have never seen one Tyler Perry film or stage play from beginning to end, so I am highly reluctant to comment on this thread, but I’ll give my two cents as a Black Tyler Perry outsider (not an oxymoron!)
    The poem itself is definitely a one-off, and so lends itself to be explored in some other medium like film. I know enough about Perry to know he’s made his name from films with tragicomic Black heroines so he seems like a natural shoe-in. I’ll be hated for this but I didn’t really care for the poem myself, mostly because of the aggravating format Shange concocted. If he can manage to make the poem more accessible and more universal, he will have done it more than justice. What would be really nice, and probably won’t happen through this film, would be to see more Black filmmakers make films about Black people that are universally praised, raised to classic film status, & considered definitive American films.

    • Thanks for commenting. I agree with you. It is a conundrum. To be or not to be T.P.? To each his own…I stand by my feelings now. I used to be aggravated/annoyed/hopeful/understanding/annoyed/aggravated/hopeful…see I’m doing that Shange thing. LOL! But, I guess I’m at a point now where T.P. isn’t relevant. I agree with you, Black filmmakers MUST be about “definitive American film status” in order for us to move past T.P.’s genre. If people spent more money on supporting each other than the unknown…we’d be further along. Think about it…if people supported their “local” hip-hop group, that “local” group would be regional, national…world wide even. Same is true for any art form. Thanks for commenting…come back and visit anytime!

  6. Good for Tyler Perry for stretching himself and trying something different. I’ve never seen a TP film, but will definitely give this one a try.

  7. Im unsure of my feelings…i’m waiting to see what come about on the screen. We put ppl in a box because of how they were introduced to us (1st impression is a lasting impression)…we were introduced to Tyler Perry through comedy…no matter how we felt about the way we were portrayed in these comedies..we expect nothing MORE from Tyler because that’s the catergory we have put him in..locked it and thrown away the key.It’s kinda like an UNDERachieving child, once we get used to the underachievement we stop looking for anything better! Well im expecting BETTER from Tyler. Let’s see if he can deliver. Let’s see if he can think outside of the box we have put him in. Literature can be seen through many eyes in so many different ways…so really i feel as if i cant be mad at him for his endeavor.period. I’m excited to see how this looks on the big screen. The funny thing is WE might even LIKE it??????????????

    S/N: I hope it’s good. Won’t be disappointed if it’s not. I’ve seen so many bad movies lately to where no matter where the idea or vision derived from…im really not expecting much these days.

    • Ebony,
      Thank you for your view! I agree with you. We don’t want to be let down. But did “we” put T.P. in that box, or did he? I agree…we have to wait and see. Check out this site called http://www.shadowandact.com. I always find very entertaining films on that site. I hope you can visit The Tofu Chitlin’ Circuit when we start back up in January! We’re a theater conservatory and we have discussions after the performances. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  8. Given his point of view and subject matter, this may be the perfect film for him to branch out from comedy with. His loyal audience will probably support him and he may win some new converts due to the “respectability” of the source material and author, who has given the project her blessing.

    But I’m not drinking the kool aid.

  9. Sis, let me say that you put your big toe and part of your ankle in this! So beautiful written and so well spoken…as if I expected anything less. I, too, am eager to see what this movie has in store as I have written a modern, uplifted version of this piece for the stage entitled- For Colored Girls Who Dance Instead. When I first read the original play, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. I rode the ride, empathized with red. Yet, to get to the end with such devastation and a simple reaction, I was left hungry. So I wrote.
    Anyhoo, thank you for this. Great way to start my morning, sis.

    Live in color today.

    Love, Shada

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