See No Evil: The Actresses

This post continues a week-long meditation on Ntozake Shange’s 1976 choreo-poem, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf and Tyler Perry’s 2010 feature film of the same name. For the full series follow the tag sing a black girl song. NOTE: The tag for posts specific to this Nunez Daughter series has changed. Since the movie’s release, the global conversation has deepened by tens and hundreds, all using the for colored girls tag. But the ND series is still tagged for colored girls: click either and join the conversation….

 worlds like words for a woman who is a poet and
 a mother are confusing/overlapping contradictory
 fatigue & exciting. between diapers, the park, the
 telephone conversations with e.t. and the dollhouse
 which had to be a plantation house where little black babies
 rest and play between my poems.  my incomplete thoughts.
 thoughts i never find the ends of: lose threads on dresses, in
 my soul there lies a quiet that sleeps out in the night
 after the last bottle and the last dried dish. somewhere
 between the unfinished books i am dying to read.
 among the letters to friends i cant finish.  there
 is a quiet that booms and presses me out of my bed.  out of my tiredness
 and sense of complete isolation from all the rest of
 you. they are here in this book. i see no evil.  i am
 fighting demons in the dark and the energies of a free spirit
 who must know
 this world will do its best to take from her all she is unless she is
 willing to struggle as she struggles with me for the right to see.
Ntozake Shange

12 April 1983. Houston

there is more here than meets the eye.


Kimberly Elise.

“He could have chosen to stay in his comfort zone. But he stepped out…I respect the fact that, any artist, we’ve been given–we’re just vessels. We’re just bringing the gift.”


Macy Gray. (the embodiment of a colored girl still walking her rainbow)

“i predict an Oscar for Phylicia Rashad!…Mrs. Huxtable.”

Thandie Newton. did the movie. then did the audiobook.

“To have pieces of work that are provocative and that can create movements–I think it’s really exciting. It is relevant simply because of the fact that pain hasn’t changed. The way we deal with trauma hasn’t changed….You finish reading a piece and you realize you’ve just experienced something viscerally emotionally, something really intense…That’s what art can do. It can allow you to experience the journey from the inside, so that you grow.”


Thandie Newton & Tessa Thompson. Mentor and mentee.

On the movie dealing with “heavy” issues:

“Just to go to the truthful place? It’s funny you say its got some heavy, heavy issues. I think that most people in their lives deal with a lot of this stuff. It’s just we go around and we paper the cracks and we keep it all in. We don’t speak it…Every member of the audience will be able to relate to something in this movie…”

like a circle:

“…the most frequently overheard comment abt spell #7 when it first opened at the public theatre/ waz that it waz too intense. the cast & i usedta laugh. if this one hour n 45 minutes waz too much/ how in the world did these same people imagine the rest of our lives were/ & wd they ever be able to handle that/ simply being alive & black & feeling in this strange deceitful country.”

Ntozake Shange, “Program Note,” in See No Evil:  Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (San Francisco, CA: Momo’s Press, 1984), 21-25, 23



Janet Jackson.

“I think he has this knack and understands women and it really shows in his work. And the depth of Tyler–I think people have yet to truly see what he can show through his talent….I knew who she [Shange] was from when I was a kid doing Good Times, and going to NY on my hiatus to visit Mike when he was doing the Wiz…and I remember this long title…and I knew it was a black female cast. But I never saw the play.”


Kimberly Elise & Thandie Newton.

on Tyler Perry, black male director, taking on a movie about women:

TN: Go see it for yourself and be surprised–

KE: And I think there’s nine women–there’s our voices in there. It’s not just one man telling the story–

TN: –It’s strange it’s a Tyler Perry in a way. Of course it is–I don’t think there’s anyone else that could have gotten the movie made–

KE: –It’s amazing–

TN: –but this is a profound collaboration. When I came on the movie I was aware he was going to give us free rein to give to the characters….

KE: …we love it too. We grew up with it too. We were all protective. And we all took it on with great reverence and respect and put everything we had into it to honor it….


Whoopi Goldberg.

“Everyone has their own story. It is just–slices of life through the eyes of these women. They don’t all know each other, you know, and the common theme is–they’re all black…People have reached down and turned themselves inside out to do justice to our director, to our original material and to the material as its been somewhat honed to make into a film. I don’t think you’ll see that for awhile again.”

Phylicia Rashad. Mrs. Huxtable.

“The themes are like currents in an ocean. they cross each other, they run parallel, intersect…and in the end, ah, that is the great moment.”


Anika Noni Rose.

“It ultimately is a movie about perseverance and about women celebrating themselves. What’s good about themselves and figuring out what’s not working about themselves and finding a way to make a change.”

“This is the first thing that he’s done whih is an adaptation. So for him it is something very differemt, its a different type of challenge for him; he’s working through someone else’s words to tell a story. and because (laugh) because the people who grew up and saw colored girls [for colored girls the play] on stage are so connected to that, um, you know, he has a–he really has a tight rope to walk on to make this thing what he wants it to be….”

“This play was such a cultural explosion when it came out. I read the book when I was a kid (I wasn’t there for the play) but it was a major piece of American culture, you know? And particularly for women of color. For somebody to be telling these stories (which are somehow universal in their pain or their experience)…it’s a very different thing to walk into a theatre and see pieces of stories of people you know or maybe where you have been or maybe where you are going. So it was really, really significant for many, many people and i think that folks have been waiting for it for a long time…”

Tessa Thompson.

“…Certainly for me when I read the play as a little girl and thinking of seven women on stage in different colored dresses singing and dancing and sharing together was like, “Wow, that must have been incredible….It’s important to make a film version of it so that people know about it, otherwise people aren’t familiar with the play.”


Kerry Washington. Anika Noni Rose.

KW: “Because of Tyler Perry, there is room for all of us [as black actresses in Hollywood]. And that is a profound experience for all of us–to know that there is room at the table.”


ANR: “…Often we are taught it is a bad thing, but you need women around you. It is not a competition.”

KW: “…Hurt people can sometimes hurt people, because we don’t know how else to deal. And if we can have a little more compassion and assume the best of people, then…sometimes there is more to that person than you think.”


Ntozake Shange.

“The show at DeMonte’s [New York City] waz prophetic. By this time, December of 1975, we had weaned the piece of extraneous theatricality, enlisted Trazana Beverley, Laurie Carlos, Laurie Hayes, Aku Kadogo, & of course, Paula [Moss] & I were right there. The most prescient change in the concept of the work waz that I gave up directorial powers to Oz Scott. By doing this, I acknowledged that the poems & the dance worked on their own to do & be what they were. As opposed to viewing the pieces as poems, I came to understand these twenty-odd poems as a single statement, a chorepoem.”

Ntozake Shange, “A History: for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” in See No Evil:  Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (San Francisco, CA: Momo’s Press, 1984), 13-17, 16.


there is something more here.
there is a love story waiting to be told.
–of the god in ourselves–
a multi-layered paradigm shift:
media. production. roles. art. empowerment. reflection. history.

here, right here, is the power of this moment.

i see no evil.
the right to see.


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