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Tyler Perry first soared to stardom as the writer/director/star of the Madea plays. These comedy/dramas about a strong black matriarch starred Perry in drag and were later translated to film, launching Perry's career as a Hollywood heavyweight. But his latest project is raising some eyebrows.
Perry has gotten the rights to Ntozake Shange's classic 1975 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, a powerful exploration of black women's lives. The oft-produced play is required reading in most college theater classes, and contains one of the most gut-wrenching monologues in the history of theater, in which a woman watches her abusive husband murder her children. It's a great drama and probably long overdue for a movie adaptation.
The problem, as pointed out by The Roots' Thembi Ford, is that Perry has become the go-to guy for any movie about the black experience: even, now, the black female experience, about which he knows nothing (and his frequent drag performances don't count). Rather than allowing the playwright to adapt the film, Perry intends to direct, produce, and write – and judging from his past projects, Shange's subtleties and ambiguities are not likely to come through in tact. Ford also points out that Perry's wish-list of stars is problematic: high on the list is Beyonce, who always looks lovely onscreen, but her cardboard acting style is hardly a match for the play's emotional speeches about rape and abortion.
On the other hand, Perry mentioned Oprah and Halle Berry as possible actors – both of them can certainly rock a tear-filled speech. And maybe it's better that the project be made by Perry than sit on a shelf for another 20 years. Still, it would be nice to see such an important work be adapted by the people who are best suited to the challenge, not just the guy who can cough up the most money.
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