Ntozake Shange and Men Hahadr- Interview 2010

Ntozake Shange and Men Hahadr

This interview was conducted on December 3, 2010 with both Ntozake Shange and Mem Nahadr on their way to Philadelphia for an honorarium being held for Ms. Shange. The event was held on December 4th hosted by Art Sanctuary in North Philadelphia. Ntozake Shange is one of my favorite authors, it was an honor to speak with her.

PCM: When were you first notified that Tyler Perry wanted to make the movie of For Colored Girls?

Ntozake: I guess one year and three months ago.

PCM: Did it come out of the blue?

Ntozake: It came of out the blue in the sense that I had never associated Tyler Perry with the project. I was working with Elaina Steward, who is a very talented young director and screenwriter in Los Angeles. She had taken the project to Lions Gate and they gave her the option to do the screenplay and direct it. Next thing I know I get a call from Lions Gate with Mr. Perry on the line and said he was interested in writing and directing the show. That came out of the blue!

PCM: Did you think the film could have the same impact as the play?

Ntozake: No.

PCM: Why was the role Janet Jackson played written into the movie?

Ntozake: I don’t know you would have to ask Mr. Perry that question.

PCM: Did you have any input in the movie?

Ntozake: My assistant and I tried to contact them about six times. We never heard back from them.

PCM: Why was the title shortened to “For Colored Girls”?

Ntozake: Mr. Perry wanted to shorten it so he could make the story shorter.

PCM: Mem, how did you first meet Ntozake Shange and how did your involvement in the movie soundtrack come about?

Mem: We meet about three years ago through a mutual friend. I greeted her coming to New York for a honorarium on her behalf. She moved here and we also became neighbors. When the opportunity for the play to become a movie came about Ntozake asked me to write something specifically for her, for the movie, for the work.
I was thrilled. I took my time, took great effort and gave it my full attention at heart and created the piece, I Found God in Myself Ntozake’s Song based on the poem Laying of Hands, which is the last choreo-poem of the play and the last poem of the movie.

PCM: Have you worked on other projects together?

Ntozake: We worked on a number of pieces. Mem invited me to work with her on a documentary as well as I asked her to work on a piece called Lillianne: Resurrection of the Daughter. My sister and I worked with Mem on a performance piece of the novel Some Sing Some Cry. I also worked with her on a piece called Dangling Particles. We’ve been busy for the last year.

PCM: Mem, you also have a CD

Mem; Actually, it’s been pushed back to April.

PCM: Who are some of the people you listen to?

Mem: I listen to beautiful. So that would be highly opinionated according to my taste and preferences. It spans the spectrum from the music of the street to the greatest of classics.

PCM: Ntozake, you have credited your daughter with being a source of strength for you during your healing process form your strokes. What did she do and how did she push you?

Ntozake: I think it was joint effort of us pushing each other. I didn’t want to become a burden to her. I also needed my privacy when I was feeling that vulnerable.

PCM: Do you have any writings about that period of your life or do you plan on creating a work about that period?

Ntozake: I have no idea.

PCM: I hope you don’t mind me saying this, a work like that with your insights, conquering such an issue would be amazing with so much healing power.

Ntozake: That would be something I would consider.

PCM: Is there talk of bringing For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf back?

Ntozake: Yes, they will be bringing it back to Broadway in 2011. The Dream Team is the production house.