‘Eclipsed’ Makes History On Broadway As The Only Play With An Entirely Black Female Cast

eclipsed-broadway

Forget #OscarsSoWhite, because Broadway is clearly the medium breaking down barriers and leading the way!

You are probably already aware of the phenomenon that is ‘Hamilton‘, which is a re-imagined hip hop version of the real life story of US founding father Alexander Hamilton. With it’s diverse cast and viral videos featuring writer and cast member Lin Manuel-Miranda, this production has become the most in-demand ticket on Broadway.

But this is certainly not the only Broadway title that has captures mainstream audiences by pushing boundaries in an exciting way. ‘Eclipsed’, a play based on the real-life struggle of female sex slaves during the Liberian civil war, has sparked conversations in a different manner.

Being a show written by a woman, directed by a woman, and starring an all-female cast, ‘Eclipsed’ has made history by becoming the first Broadway production to boast such statistics, and added to this is the fact that they are all black women.

Danai Gurira is the writer, who you may recognize as the badass, sword-wielding zombie killer Michonne on ‘The Walking Dead’. Leisl Tommy (‘The Good Negro’, ‘Appropriate’) is the director, and the cast features Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o as one of the girls who is part of a group of captured women.

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Danai told CBS Evening News that the idea for the play, which was originally performed off-Broadway and has now made it to the upper echelon of theater production performance spaces, came about after she learned the story of a group of women fighting in the Liberian civil war, and her subsequent anger that these women weren’t more commonly known throughout the world. She traveled to Liberia to learn more about the women.

“Why don’t we know these women’s stories? Why don’t we hear the narratives of women in war?”

Liberia’s civil war waged from 1989 to 1997, and then again from 1999 to 2oo3. Both involved dictator Charles Taylor, the killing of over 600,000 people and struggle between different groups trying to gain control of the government. A movie called ‘Pray the Devil Back To Hell’ follows the remarkable story of the women who became a fundamental part of the end of the war.

Female activists in Liberia decided they had had enough. Both Christian and Muslim women, defying social customs of the day, united with the same goal and successfully managed to force the men in power to dismantle their hold on the country and end the blood shed. One of the ways they did this was go on a sex strike.

These women also helped Liberia become the first African country to elect a female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. As in many conflict zones, women and children becomes victims of sexual assault and rape, which is an issue that ‘Eclipsed’ focuses on with their 5 main characters.

“For me it’s about survival. It’s about the incredible capacity for human beings to survive the most unbelievable circumstances, and retain their humanity,” said director Liesl, to CBS News.

Danai says she did plan to have an all-female cast, but did not have any idea that the play would make history for the gender and racial barriers it crossed. In an interview with Access Hollywood Lupita Nyong’o was quite happy to mention what a milestone this was.

“I think we can all agree that this is a milestone, and an important one. For me, I didn’t grow up seeing stories like this, I don’t think a story like this even exists!…To think that there will be girls who come and see this show at an age where they can be really influenced and their worlds can grow…larger. I think that’s the power of things like film and TV and theater. For the stories to be diverse means that our futures can be better informed by the world we actually live in,” she said.

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Lupita has often talked in the past of the power of representation on screen. Growing up she has said she never felt like she was included in the common societal definitions of “beauty” as perpetuated by the media because she would never see women with skin like hers on TV etc. It wasn’t until she saw the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ back in the 1990s that changed her whole perception and idea of what success and beauty could look like, and that she could indeed be included.

It’s no wonder ‘Eclipsed’ has been called “essential theatre” by some media outlets. They are pushing the needle forward for gender and racial diversity, not just to be politically correct or tick a box, but to show how creative industries can take the lead on breaking down barriers through story-telling. By including more untold stories about incredible women who have changed or shaped the world in some way, such as the women in Liberia’s civil war, entertainment has the capacity to help society become richer and more comfortable with seeing the world through a different perspective other than our own.

To secure tickets to see ‘Eclipsed’, go to the website, where you can also find more information about the cast, crew, and the story being told.


 

 

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  1. Pingback: How The "White Male Savior" Complex Extends Far Beyond The Hollywood Screen Into Society - GirlTalkHQ

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