'The Queen Has Just Entered The Room'
" Where there is a woman, there is magic."
- Ntozake Shange (1948-2018)
Ntozake Shange
T'Keyah Crystal Keymah
Danny Glover
Oz Scott
Dianne McIntyre
Stephanie Hughley
This week we mourn the loss of playwright and author Ntozake Shange who passed away on October 27, 2018 at the age of 70, and we thought we'd go into The HistoryMakers Digital Archive to share the following memories of her. Actress T’Keyah Crystal Keymah recalled her first impression of reading ‘For Colored Girls,’ “ It was in high school that I first read ‘For Colored Girls’…But that was my bible, I thought this is the play that all black actresses should know by heart and do…It was for me the first contemporary literature, theatrical literature that I read that I felt like, ‘Hey, this is my voice .’” [T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, THMDA, 2.7.1.] .

‘For Colored Girls’ began as a series of readings in small bars and beatnik hangouts around the Bay Area in the early 1970s. Actor Danny Glover remembered Shange’s earliest performances, “ We'd go to a place called Minnie's Can-Do…What made it famous was that it was the place where Ntozake Shange developed 'For Colored Girls.’ Now on her night, when she came in there was Tuesday night and it was packed. On my night, I'm not getting but a couple of--if you got ten people in the audience you were lucky. [Danny Glover, THMDA, 1.4.7.] . However, it was her sister, Ifa Bayeza , who encouraged her to turn her collection of poems into theater. Shange recalled, “ I ran into my sister the playwright who always inspired me. And Ifa said, ‘What you have here is theater Ntozake. You don't need to do this in cafes anymore, you can do this in a theater.’ And I said, ‘Well, I'm happy doing it in cafes, I don't need to make it theater and do the same thing every night.’ She continued, “ And she said, ‘No, no, no. You don't understand. Theater is alive. You can find actors who can make it different every night.’ [Ntozake Shange, THMDA, 1.4.10.] . Director and television producer Oz Scott helped arrange the works for the on-stage adaptation of ‘For Colored Girls’ along with Bayeza, “ Ifa and I sat down every day as we were putting 'For Colored Girls' together even in the bar. Ifa knew all her sister's poems. I said, ‘I need a poem’ and I would describe the type of feeling and Ifa would go and she'd give me three poems...we'd do some improvs and Ifa would compile those together and, Ntozake, we all worked very hard and very, very closely on it. ‘Zake was in the play. As she used to say, ‘You kept cutting my poems down to, where I only had one and a half poems.’ I said, ‘What is the half poem?’ She said, ‘The one you put all that music over.’ [Oz Scott, THMDA, 2.5.6.] .

Shange considered her work a choreopoem as it masterfully combined poetry, dance and music. When director Oz Scott and Shange were looking for a choreographer they approached choreographer and dancer Dianne McIntyre , who first met Ntozake and her sister who were attending dance classes at her studio in New York, “ I read that script and I was like, 'Zake can really write,’ 'cause she was a student in the class and a dance student which she danced very well. I didn't know that she could write like that. ” Although McIntyre passed on the opportunity, the two worked together years later on Shange’s ‘Spell #7,’ “ I worked with Ntozake and her director Oz Scott...It was a whole brilliant cast. 'Zake got the best people together and Laurie Carlos who was the original for 'Colored Girls' and she had Ntozake's rhythm in her consciousness.” [Dianne McIntyre, THMDA, 1.6.1.] . Shange was firm with who she wanted as the company manager. Arts administrator and stage producer Stephanie Hughley noted, “ They decided to take the show to Broadway. But Ntozake had told them that she wanted a black woman company manager...And they opened the show on Broadway and they decided that they were gonna take a company out on the road. And Ntozake told them that they were absolutely not taking out that company without a black woman manager. ” Hughley later agreed to become company manager noting, “ So I went out on the road with the first national company. And we had auditions there and hired all the women. [Stephanie Hughley, THMDA, 1.5.5.] .

Ntozake Shange’s work was her gift to women around the world. She will always be remembered as a prolific writer and a champion of women’s and civil rights. When asked what she considered to be her legacy, she said, “I guess my legacy is the exploration of the lives of women of color and the right we have to do that, and the complexity and delicacy of our lives to be explored and our strengths to be made obvious and our dreams and nightmares to become real to others. That's what I think I've created.” 
This weekend, the annual fundraiser of The HistoryMakers, The HistoryMakers' An Evening With Ken Chenault PBS-TV Taping, will be taped in front of a live audience of 350 people. Staff and volunteers are already on location getting ready for tomorrow's event honoring Ken Chenault , the former CEO and Chairman of the American Express Company and current Chairman and Managing Director of General Catalyst Partners. The evening's events will be hosted by CBS Sports and NFL Network sportscaster James Brown . Presenters include Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier , Managing Director and Co-Chairman of Investment Banking at Lazard Ltd. William M. Lewis, Jr. , Chairman and CEO of the American Express Company Steve Squeri and Chair of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts   Katherine Farley .
Next week, The HistoryMakers returns to Charleston, South Carolina for the annual Charleston Conference for academic libraries and publishers. We look forward to the event and to forging new partnerships with potential subscribing institutions. For those attending, be sure to stop by our booth for information and a demonstration of our digital archive!
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- Lee H. Walker, corporate executive
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