“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” — that ain’t just lyrics to a song by Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox, it’s a revolution going down at The Public Theater now through November 29 — “Eclipsed” moves to Broadway’s Golden Theatre February, 2016.
Five dynamic divas portray a broad spectrum of female personas that emerge as they discover and forge new ways to survive in a war-torn Liberian rebel camp during the second Civil War (1999-2003). The physical, emotional, and psychological effects of long-term abuse is explored and explained through the complex and compromised lives of young girls raised to serve their tormentors. Insurmountable fear makes them complicit partners in maintaining their miserable circumstances. They have been away from their families for so long they don’t even remember their given names, referring to themselves as wife No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, and so on, depending upon when they arrived. Wife No. 1, held captive the longest, is no longer sexually exploited by the rebels, she has attained a type of begrudged respect, like a mother’s, and is trusted to keep the camp running smoothly. Wife No. 2, tired of casual rapes and other cruelties chooses to join the men and fight alongside them, assisting in victimizing other innocent girls who allow fear to rule over them. Wife No. 3 is a young mother-to-be whose greatest focus is to maintain her perceived favorite status, through her burgeoning pregnancy, by keeping herself pretty and desirable for the rebel commander. Wife #4 is a pretty new arrival who is kept hidden by the women in the camp to avoid her becoming a wife to one of the men, but she is discovered early on and made a “wife.” Rita, the fifth woman, is not a resident of the camp or any rebel’s wife. She represents the group of strong educated women who become the fearless liaisons between the warring factions. These heroines ended the Liberian war and rebuilt the nation with their first female president.
This play is particularly poignant today with international sex trafficking rings and children going missing daily in Africa and across the globe. An April 2015 article in The Washington Post reported “Experts estimate that Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 2,000 people during its reign of terror in northeastern Nigeria…” (Includes the famous 219 schoolgirls taken from Chibok and 234 schoolgirls abducted from Abuja in April 2014). The article further states: “One sad fact that many in Nigeria have accepted is that if the teenage Chibok girls are found, most of them would now probably be mothers. Many girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have reportedly been forced to marry militants.”
Eclipsed is a marvelously diverse mix of award-winning women doin’ it for themselves onstage, backstage, and in life! Between Danai Gurira (Playwright), Liesl Tommy (Director), and Actors: Stacey Sargeant (Wife #1), Jainab Jah (Wife #2), Pascale Armand (Wife #3), Lupita Nyong’o (Wife #4), and Akosua Busia (Rita), their roots span the planet; the United States, the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana, Sierre Leone, Kenya, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Their compiled talents include: Acting, Directing, Singing, Filmmaking, and Writing in nearly every genre; playwriting, songwriting, screenplays, television series, and books. Together they have garnered a plethora of prestigious awards from the: NAACP, Golden Globe, OSCAR, Helen Hayes, OBIE, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, AUDELCO, Black Theatre Alliance Award, and more.
Alia Jones-Harvey (Producer) is part of the leading African American Broadway producing team who, along with Stephen Byrd, brought us Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, Romeo & Juliet, and (TONY winning) The Trip to Bountiful, and now the February, 2016 Broadway presentation of Eclipsed.
The magic, grace and talent of these take-charge women may very well eclipse the lights of many other Broadway shows when it opens March 6, 2016.