Campus play comes to empower women of color

The cast of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” pose with the director, Sarah Balli. The play is Balli's first time directing a main stage play. Zachary Araki/The Lion’s Roar

Sarah Balli directs “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” to empower and tell the stories of women of color.

The play will show at the Vonnie Borden Theatre from Oct. 3-6. The playwright Ntozake Shange coined the term “choreopoem” to describe her work. The story is told as a series of poetic monologues with song and dance. Balli, a senior art major discussed the play’s expected audience.

“Ntozake Shange herself said that ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf’ was and is for colored girls so the intended audience is for black women,” said Balli. “But as the director, it’s my goal to empower women of color and to enlighten everyone else. It’s for everyone, but specifically the message and the themes it explores really hits home with black women.” 

 

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Balli shared her vision for the production.

“It was kind of my goal to create an abstract world for these characters to live in,” said Balli. “I wanted to create a world that was abstract but had been built by a 1960s hand, so it’s kind of a mixture in between 1960s and an abstract environment, so think modern day game show meets Frank Stella.”

“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” is the first main stage play Balli has directed. She is directing and designing the production as her senior project.

“I didn’t get involved in theater actually until my sophomore year here at Southeastern, and then I took a directing class as an elective a few semesters ago and just fell in love with it,” said Balli. “It was one of those things that clicked instantly for me, and I’ve enjoyed every little part of it. I enjoy the researching. I enjoy the analyzing. I enjoy the casting, and I just love it.”

Diversity initially drew Balli to choose to direct the production and present the audience with everyday themes.

“I hope that they aren’t scared of the challenges in these poems and the audience take into consideration because it’s not about them, but it’s shining a light on what women of color go through every day,” said Balli. “It’s a type of play that’s talking about things that we as a society don’t want to talk about, so I’m really hoping that they’re challenged by it in a good way.”

Ashley Barbarin, a sophomore general studies major with a concentration in dance is the choreographer and assistant director. She explained why people who are not women of color should attend the play. 

“It’s really easy to identify with people of your own culture, but it’s not so easy to identify with someone else’s culture if you haven’t been exposed to it,” said Barbarin. “I think it’s about exposure, and if you see what people of a different culture go through, maybe you’ll learn to be more empathetic towards them. You might want to not only look out for yourself but you’re more willing to look out for people of other cultures as well.”

According to Barbarin, attendees should keep in mind that each of the poetic monologues tells of an experience that Shange experienced or witnessed.

“I think that should also make a difference how people respond to it because it’s not just make believe,” said Barbarin. “It’s not just realistic fiction. It’s real. That definitely plays a role in how we should respond because a lot of people go through this and a lot of people will go through the things she’s gone through also.”

Taylor Bennett, a junior English major plays the Lady in Yellow. She shared why she decided to audition for the play.

“I felt that culturally it was important as a black woman in theater to try to portray something that the world would otherwise not hear about and definitely not watch,” said Bennett. “It’s almost like getting a message across, getting them to see our side.”

Ariana Robinson, a freshman art major plays the Lady in Blue. She discussed the poem “Sorry.”

“It’s basically saying that you don’t want to deal with the nonsense anymore,” said Robinson. “You’re tired of all the sorry’s. They keep hurting you and breaking your heart, but now you’re just done with it. You’re ready to move on. That’s one of my favorites.”

Robinson shared why she decided to audition for the play.

“I’ve always liked doing theater,” said Robinson. “I did it in high school, and I saw that they were having auditions so I was like, ‘Why not give it a shot?’”

Shelly Sneed, a senior general studies major plays the Lady in Purple and appreciates the message in the play.

“I think it’s something that everybody needs to hear right now,” said Sneed. “With everything that’s going on, this message is perfect. It opens people’s ears and minds to what is going on out there.

Bennett discussed what she saw as the message for women of color and other attendees.

“The message for black women is that you are stronger than you think you are,” said Bennett. “Perhaps the message for everyone else would just be not only do you not know what happens on the other side of the tracks but that we can all help each other. We’re not so different.”

 

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