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The University of Texas at Dallas, P.O. Box 830688, Richardson, Texas 75083-0688

News Release

For Immediate Release

News contact:

Sadie Prater, UTD, (972) 883-2972, [email protected]

Announcement of Postponement:
Due to illness, Ntozake Shange’s visit to UTD will not be held on Wednesday, April 21, but will be rescheduled at later date.

Playwright, Novelist, Poet Ntozake Shange
To Speak and Read from Her Works at UTD

Ntozake ShangeRICHARDSON, Texas (April 13, 2004) — In a special program sponsored by several campus organizations, The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) will present “Sweet Breath of Life,” an evening of spoken word by one of the country’s most lyrical African–American voices — playwright, novelist, poet and performer Ntozake Shange — on Wednesday, April 21, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Jonsson Performance Hall (JO 2.604) on campus.

The event is free and open to the public; however, seating is limited and those interested in attending the event are urged to arrive early.

The evening will begin with an open microphone available for spoken-word artists, followed at 7 p.m. by a student presentation from a UTD spoken-word class. The main event, “Sweet Breath of Life,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. with readings from Shange’s award winning play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, which has been presented as a Broadway play and a PBS television special, as well readings from some of her other works. A discussion session with Shange will follow.

According to Venus Opal Reese, an assistant professor in the School of Arts and Humanities at UTD, “Sweet Breath of Life” provides an opportunity to link the past with the present by providing local spoken-word artists and college students a chance to learn from and talk with one of America’s pioneers of spoken word.

“This is a community event that will bridge various entities within UTD and the Dallas area by combining culture with education, art with practice, and connect generations,” Reese said. “Whether one is an Erykah Badu fan, saw the movie for colored girls during the 1970’s, or read e.e. cummings, “Sweet Breath of Life” will be an event that will inspire. Ms. Shange is a fearless, outstanding and unapologetic pioneer, and this is going to be a phenomenal evening.”

The event is being sponsored by UTD’s McDermott Library, the School of General Studies, the Office of Student Affairs and External Relations, the School of Arts & Humanities, the Student Union & Activities Advisory Board, the Multicultural Center, the Galerstein Women’s Center and the Carl J. Thomsen Fund for Student Enrichment.

For more information about the performance, visit http://ah.utdallas.edu/season0304/shange.htm.

For information about the many other musical, arts, theatre, dance and other performances and exhibitions held throughout the year at UTD, please call 972-UTD-ARTS (972-883-2787) or visit the School of Arts and Humanities’ web site at http://ah.utdallas.edu/. Persons with disabilities needing special accommodations may call 972-883-2982. Texas Relay Operator: 1-800-RELAYVV.

About UTD

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls more than 13,700 students. The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s Web site at www.utdallas.edu.

Background Materials

Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams in Trenton, N. J. on Oct.18, 1948. In 1971, she changed her name to Ntozake Shange, which means “she who comes with her own things” and “she who walks like a lion” in Xhosa, the Zulu language. Her father was an Air Force surgeon, and her mother was an educator and a psychiatric social worker. The Williamses were upper-middle-class African Americans whose love of the arts contributed to an intellectually stimulating childhood for Shange and her three siblings. Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry and W. E. B. Du Bois were among the frequent guests at her parent’s home.

In 1966, Shange enrolled at Barnard College and separated from her husband, a law student. She attempted suicide several times but nonetheless graduated cum laude with a degree in American studies in 1970. She then enrolled at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, where she earned a master’s degree in American studies in 1973.

While living in California and teaching humanities and women’s studies courses at Mills College in Oakland — the University of California extension — and Sonoma State College, Shange began to associate with poets, teachers, performers and black and white feminist writers who nurtured her talents.

Shange and her friends began to perform their poetry, music and dance in and around the San Francisco area. Shange also danced with Halifu Osumare’s company. Upon leaving the company, she began collaborating with Paula Moss on the poetry, music and dance that would become the movie for colored girls. Moss and Shange left California for New York and performed for colored girls in a SoHo jazz loft and later in bars in the lower East Side. Producer Woodie King Jr. saw one of these shows and helped director Oz Scott stage the choreo-poem off-Broadway at the New Federal Theatre, where it ran for eight months. Later, it moved to the New York Shakespeare Company’s Anspacher Public Theatre and then to the Booth Theatre.

In addition to her plays, she has written poetry, novels and essays. She has taught at California State College, the City College of New York, the University of Houston, Rice University, Yale University, Howard University and New York University. Among her many awards are an Obie, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry and a Pushcart Prize. Shange currently is an associate professor of women’s studies at the University of Florida.


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