From the compelling pen of actress Danai Gurira to the dynamic vision of director Liesl Tommy comes a play that’s left other productions in its grand shadow of prominence. Eclipsed details the cunning yet heartbreaking story of five women navigating life through war-torn Liberia, and how they look to each other for support and guidance while figuring out how to begin their next uncertain chapter.
Patrons filed into the Golden Theater Sunday afternoon (Feb. 28), flipping through the playbill to familiarize themselves with the show. One audience member made it her mission to attend after chatting with a friend about it, while another attendee knew little about the backstory of the production, but decided to see what the praise was about. While many people had mixed feelings pre-show, by night’s end, everyone stood to their feet in unison and marveled at what they just witnessed.
Within various reviews, one thing was constantly reiterated: Eclipsed shines a much-needed light on African women in the arts. Director Liesl Tommy spoke to this statement openly. “I’m from South Africa originally and I have a very rigorous point of view when it comes to portraying Africa and African stories in the West because often I feel that they’re incredibly general and they treat the continent as if it’s a country. It’s not specific,” she says. “From the very beginning, my mission was to make it as specific as possible. Therefore, what I think the critics are responding to is that they are really drawn into the lives of these specific women in this specific place, Liberia, at this specific time during this conflict period.”
Making history as the first all-female cast on Broadway, the playmakers behind the scenes are also a testament to that feat. La La Anthony, who came on as a producer after one viewing of the play during its Public Theater run, was more than elated to assist with the production of the program. “I’m just expanding my career and what I’m doing and why not produce something so amazing like this?” she said. “I’m super excited.”
Actress Saycon Sengbloh, who shares the stage with cast mates Lupita Nyong’o, Akosua Busia, Pascale Armand and Zainab Jah, also found a special connection to the play being set in her father’s native country of Liberia and that African women on Broadway are at the forefront. “I’m really proud that African women are getting a lens on us. As an African woman, as an African American woman, just as a Black woman within the Diaspora, women of color from Africa to Brazil need to be represented.”
After moving past its preview stages at the Golden Theatre, Eclipsed made its historic official Broadway debut last Sunday (March 6). You can purchase tickets here.