Project1VOICE Presents: A Night Out at “for colored girls…” with OGs Trazana Beverley, Aku Kadogo, Janet League, Paula Moss, Michele Shay, Sharrata Hunt and Carol Maillard

The gale force winds and steady downpour did not damper the spirits of the women who gathered outside of the Booth Theatre in New York last Thursday to see a preview performance of Ntozake Shange’s groundbreaking choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf, directed and choreographed by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown (Once On This Island, Choir Boy, co-director and choreographer of Fire Shut Up in My Bones). 

Trazana Beverley, Janet League, Carol Maillard, Michele Shay, Aku Kadogo and Paula Moss. Photo by Lia Chang

Erich McMillan-McCall, CEO and a trustee of Project1VOICE had orchestrated a reunion of sorts, inviting Trazana Beverley (Lady in Red), Aku Kadogo (Lady in Yellow), Janet League (Lady in Brown), Paula Moss (Lady in Green), and Michele Shay (understudy) from the original Broadway company, along with Sharrata Hunt and Carol Maillard to experience the current cast.

Stacey Sargeant, Alexandria Wailes, Kenita R. Miller, Okwui Okpokwasili, Tendayi Kuumba and D. Woods. Photo by Lia Chang

The Broadway revival stars Amara Granderson as Lady in Orange, Tendayi Kuumba as Lady in Brown, Kenita R. Miller as Lady in Red, Okwui Okpokwasili as Lady in Green, Stacey Sargeant as Lady in Blue, Alexandria Wailes as Lady in Purple, and D. Woods as Lady in Yellow. Rachel Christopher, Treshelle Edmond, McKenzie Frye, Kala Ross and Alexis Sims join the company as standbys and understudies.

April 14, 2022: The “for colored girls…” OGs Paula Moss, Carol Maillard, Aku Kadogo, Janet League, Trazana Beverley and Michele Shay in front of the Booth Theatre, where it all began on September 15, 1976. This is what history looks like. Photo by Lia Chang

“On March 28, I received an email from my friend Aku Kadogo,” shared McMillan-McCall. “In this email she informed me that she and Paula Moss were interested in seeing the current revival of for colored girls… at the Booth.  She asked if I had any way of obtaining tickets. This is when my imagination went wild.  I reached out to all the ladies who I had asked to perform an excerpt from for colored girls… at N’Tozake Shange’s memorial service at the Public Theater in New York.

After several emails over several weeks we decided this was going to be a reunion of the OBC at the Booth.  So what had been a “movie in my mind,” became a reality on Thursday, April 14, 2022.  I brought the OBC cast of for colored girls…,  along with Carol Maillard and Sharrata Hunt—both part of the for colored girls... family—to the Booth Theatre, 46 years after the play opened on Broadway.

Michele Shay, Janet League, Trazana Beverley, Aku Kadogo, Carol Maillard and Paula Moss in front of the Booth Theatre in New York on April 14, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

This was a celebration of excellence—Black excellence—in the American Theatre. for colored girls…  was only the second play authored by a Black woman to be performed on Broadway. Lorraine Hansberry was the first with, A Raisin in the Sun. Additionally this season, seven plays written by seven Black playwrights ushered in Broadway’s triumphant re-opening this fall.  Among these magnificent seven plays was Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress, which was scheduled to debut on Broadway in 1955.  However, due to Childress’ refusal to alter the play’s ending in favor of a more “palatable ending”for the mostly white theater audiences of the time, she also relinquished the opportunity to precede Lorraine Hansberry’s history making moment. Childress finally arrived on Broadway this season over sixty years later.  Project1VOICE was there! This has been an incredible year for Black creativity and excellence on a Broadway and across the regions.  It has been a triumphant year for Project1VOICE which is celebrating a decade of service to the Black creative community.  Thank you to all who have supported us over the last 10 years. Our best is yet to come!”

Michele Shay, Janet League, Trazana Beverley, Aku Kadogo, Carol Maillard and Paula Moss in front of the Booth Theatre in New York on April 14, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

I was in the same area where the ladies were seated as an announcement was made over the loudspeaker at the top of the show. The audience went wild when they heard the original Broadway cast members were in the house, and the ladies stood to receive the love. After the curtain call, the cast returned to the stage and from the house, each original cast member introduced themselves and shared which roles they played. It was a moving passing of the torch. Click here to watch the video.

Stacey Sargeant, Alexandria Wailes, Kenita R. Miller, Okwui Okpokwasili, Tendayi Kuumba and D. Woods. Photo by Lia Chang
Original Broadway company cast members of Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls…” meet the Broadway revival company at the Booth Theatre in New York on April 14, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang
Original Broadway company cast members of Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls…” meet the Broadway revival company at the Booth Theatre in New York on April 14, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

The Broadway revival stars Amara Granderson as Lady in Orange, Tendayi Kuumba as Lady in Brown, Kenita R. Miller as Lady in Red, Okwui Okpokwasili as Lady in Green, Stacey Sargeant as Lady in Blue, Alexandria Wailes as Lady in Purple, and D. Woods as Lady in Yellow. Rachel Christopher, Treshelle Edmond, McKenzie Frye, Kala Ross and Alexis Sims join the company as standbys and understudies.

Okwui Okpokwasili, Kenita R. Miller, Alexandria Wailes, Tendayi Kuumba, D. Woods and Amara Granderson. Photo by Lia Chang
Okwui Okpokwasili, Kenita R. Miller, Alexandria Wailes, Tendayi Kuumba, D. Woods and Amara Granderson. Photo by Lia Chang
Alexandria Wailes, Tendayi Kuumba, D. Woods and Amara Granderson. Photo by Lia Chang
Okwui Okpokwasili, Kenita R. Miller, Alexandria Wailes, Tendayi Kuumba, D. Woods. Photo by Lia Chang
Alexandria Wailes, Tendayi Kuumba, D. Woods, Amara Granderson and Stacey Sargeant. Photo by Lia Chang
Okwui Okpokwasili, Kenita R. Miller, Alexandria Wailes. Photo by Lia Chang
1st row: OGs Paula Moss, Trazana Beverley, Aku Kadogo, Janet League, Carol Maillard, Sharrata Hunt, and Michele Shay. 2nd row: current cast includes Stacey Sargeant, Alexandria Wailes, Kenita R. Miller, Okwui Okpokwasili, Tendayi Kuumba, D. Woods, Amara Granderson at the Booth Theatre in New York on April 14, 2022. Photo by Lia Chang

The show marks Camille A. Brown’s directorial debut on Broadway. Brown, who served as choreographer on the Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk award-winning 2019 production of the play at The Public Theater, will also continue in her role as choreographer on Broadway, making her the first Black woman to serve as both director and choreographer on a Broadway production in more than 65 years.

Tony nominee Camille A. Brown attends the 73rd Annual Tony Awards. Photo by Lia Chang
Tony nominee Camille A. Brown attends the 73rd Annual Tony Awards. Photo by Lia Chang

Join the circle as seven women share their stories and find strength in each other’s humor and passion through a fusion of music, dance, poetry and song that explodes off the stage and resonates with all. It’s time for joy. It’s time for sisterhood. It’s time for colored girls.

Opening night is set for April 20, 2022. Tickets are on sale for the 20-week limited engagement at www.telecharge.com.

for colored girls… features set design by Myung Hee Cho, costume design by Sarafina Bush, lighting design by Jiyoun Chang, sound design by Justin Ellington, projection design by Aaron Rhyne, and hair & wig design by Cookie Jordan. The show features original music by Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby. Deah Love Harriott serves as the Music Director and Tia Allen is the Music Coordinator. The Production Stage Manager is Bernita Robinson and the Assistant Stage Manager is lark hackshaw. The production features casting by Erica Jensen/Calleri Jensen Davis and production supervision by Hudson Theatricals. Christina Franklin serves as the Associate Director and Maleek Washington and Mayte Natalio serve as Associate Choreographers. The production’s ASL team includes Michelle Banks (Director of ASL), Monique Sarpy (ASL Coordinator) and ASL Interpreters Justine Rivera, Jacinda Damas, Kathleen Taylor, Lynette Taylor, Carllee James, Candace Broecker-Penn, Aisha Simpson, Stephanie Feyne and Craig Fogel. for colored girls… is produced by Nelle Nugent, Ron Simons and Kenneth Teaton.

Project1VOICE is now a 501(c)(3) service organization dedicated to supporting theater and the performing arts by people of African descent. Erich McMillan McCall continues to serve, as CEO and a trustee of Project1VOICE.  Under his leadership, the organization has spent the last ten years uplifting other Black creatives and providing education on the contributions of Black artists throughout the history of the United States and beyond.  The key to continuing the legacy of Black creativity in this country will depend on four areas of action: Sustainability, Endowments, Accessibility and Thrivability (SEAT).

So what’s next for Project1VOICE? The next decade will still focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the creative and performing arts.  They are expanding their reach to include programming for young audiences, the LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and the deaf/signing communities.  They will continue their latest initiative called #USsupportingUS. They are extremely excited about their latest partnership with the Association of African American Museums.  Coming up in 2023 is a yearlong commemoration of 1963–a pivotal year for Civil Rights—in partnership with organizations and cities around the country.

For more information visit Project1VOICE.org

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them. Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon.

The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of ‘Asian actor’ in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under ‘Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011’ and in the ‘Lia Chang Photography Collection’ in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.

Lia’s awards include the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award and the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative).

Lia is honored to have worked with Prospect Theater Company on a shared mission of lifting up BIPOC theater artists and creating a more diverse and inclusive musical theater canon. A retrospective of Lia’s photographs will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York later this year, documenting her BIPOC colleagues and contemporaries in the performing arts, which will include photos of Prospect Theater Company artists at work.

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