We told you about Eclipsed a few months ago after the production sold out many shows before it made its way to Broadway earlier this month. The production tells the story of five Liberian women brought together by the country’s second civil war.
What makes this production so unique is that not only does it star five women of African descent, it was also written by Danai Gurira (“The Walking Dead”) and directed by a woman, Liesl Tommy, a native of Cape Town, South Africa. The show is literally making history. The closest thing anyone has ever seen would be the 1975 production of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls; but even that was directed by a man. Tommy says it’s important that women are at the helm. “In order to affect change both here and in Hollywood, we need to recognize our ability to lead, have a vision and be entrusted with big budgets and large staffs.”
Interestingly enough, even the behind the scenes funding is coming from Black women as LaLa Anthony, Alia Jones-Harvey and Marvet Britto serve as producers for the show. Anthony said this of her involvement, “I wanted to align myself with a project that was powerful and sparked meaningful conversation across the board. I think it’s amazing, necessary and important for Broadway to continue to support multicultural plays for audiences to enjoy.”
These phenomenal ladies, the main cast of five women, Lupita Nyong’o, Pascale Armand, Akosua Busia, Zainab Jah, Saycon Sengbloh and director Gurira recently graced the cover of Uptown Magazine to explain why it was so important that they be a part of telling this story.
Check out a few highlights from their interview.
Lupita Nyong’o on being drawn to Eclipsed:
“I was first cast as the understudy in the role I’m playing now so it was the very first role I under-studied and it was the very first role that I was assigned to at Yale. I was just drawn. I thought it was an incredibly engaging and riveting story and I was just dumbfounded that I never experienced anything like it before — five African women telling their stories and each of the women are so distinct from the other one. And it was so funny and also heart-breaking at times. It was just a very powerful story.”
Nyong’o on Making History:
“I’m very proud to be part of a milestone of a production that is all female…and to be a part of a production like none other that has been on Broadway and is also changing the narrative of what is possible on Broadway.”
Danai Gurira on why telling stories like Eclipsed are important:
“That for me is really the most important thing, the exposure of these voices. Honestly, the reason why I write what I write is because it’s kind of inexplicable the silence and the lack of representation around these types of women and these stories. That’s kind of the thing that excites me the most is the idea that we’re breaking that type of barrier with these types of women and hearing these particular voices on The Great White Way. It’s really time to break through those barriers and show that there isn’t a reason for the lack of representation or the under-representation.”
Gurira on telling the story from the women’s perspective:
“Creating this play was an act of love. I got on a plane from New York to Ghana and from Ghana to Liberia and I was broke … but I knew I had to do it, my heart felt really driven to tell the stories in the voice of the women. I was crazy.”
Pascale Armand on making women’s voices heard:
“There are no men … You’re seeing the story from the female perspective … being able to tell this story and not have a male voice in it is just wonderful because most of the time women’s voices are silent. And so being able to speak for ourselves and tell the story the way we want to is wonderful and it’s something we haven’t seen in a long time.”
Zainab Jah on how close Eclipsed hits home:
“I read it and I said I know exactly who she is. When I first went to the audition, I asked Danai was it based on real-life women and she asked me ‘How do you know that?’ and I told her that I knew much about their stories … I have family members, one female cousin, who were involved in the war and I haven’t seen them since the war. So this character was really real to me.”
Akosua Busia on why her involvement in Eclipsed is personally important:
“This work resonated with me because of the work I’ve been doing with the refugee camp for Liberians. Ghana was one of the countries they fled to. Danai’s writing is so specific and although, as an actress, you cannot put every [thing] on that stage, you have to do your best and bring some kind of homage to the people who went through that.”
Saycon Sengbloh on telling the story of her countrywomen:
“I’m really proud. I think it’s really awesome to be a part of something like this, in terms of making history.”
You can read the full interview and see the full spread on UptownMagazine.com.