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For Colored Girls... Playwright Ntozake Shange Has Died

The Tony Award-nominated writer was 70 years old.

Playwright and poet Ntozake Shange has died.
Tricia Baron

Ntozake Shange, an award-winning writer and performer known for her Tony-nominated play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf died October 27 at the age of 70, according to published reports.

Shange was born Paulette L. Williams in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1948. She lived for a time in St. Louis before returning to New Jersey, where she graduated from Lawrence High School. Continuing her studies, she attended Barnard College in New York City, from which she graduated cum laude in American Studies, going on to earn a master's degree in the same field from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Shange returned to New York in 1975, the same year For Colored Girls was first produced off-Broadway at the Public Theater. In 1976, the play moved to Broadway's Booth Theatre. The work, which utilizes various forms of artistic expression to chronicle the lives of women of color in the United States, won an Obie Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award and was nominated for a Tony. In 1977, For Colored Girls was published as a book, in 1982 it was adapted for television as part of PBS's American Playhouse series, and in 2010 it was adapted into a film directed by Tyler Perry that starred Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, and Kerry Washington, among others.

Other plays by Shange include Spell No. 7, Whitewash, and an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children (earning her a 1981 Obie), among many others. Shange also has the distinction of being a founding poet of the Nuyorican Poets Café and published six novels, 19 poetry collections, and several essays throughout her lifetime.

Shange is survived by her daughter, three siblings, and a granddaughter.


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