Structurally, For Colored Girls is a series of 20 poems, collectively called a "choreopoem." Shange's poetry expresses the many struggles and obstacles that African-American women face throughout their lives. It is performed by a cast of seven women characters, each of whom is known only by a color: "Lady in Yellow," "Lady in Purple," etc. The poems deal with love, abandonment, rape, and abortion, embodied by each woman's story, e.g. Lady in Blue's visceral account of a woman who chooses to have an abortion, and Lady in Red's tale of domestic violence. The end of the play brings together all of the women for "a laying on of hands," in which Shange evokes the power of womanhood as the Lady in Red begins the mantra "I found God in myself/and I loved her/I loved her fiercely."
“For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” is a choreopoem, a poem (really a series of 20 separate poems) choreographed to music. Although a printed text cannot convey the full impact of a performance of for colored girls..., Shange's stage directions provide a sense of the interrelationships among the performers and of their gestures and dance movements. The play begins and ends with the lady in brown. The other six performers represent the colors of the rainbow: the ladies in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The various repercussions of "bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical dilemma" are explored through the words, gestures, dance, and music of the seven ladies, who improvise as they shift in and out of different roles. In the 1970s, when Ntozake Shange herself performed in for colored girls..., she continually revised and refined the poems and the movements in her search to express a female black identity. Improvisation...