Play at Yale Rep Looks at Liberian Women in a War Zone

A group of women struggle to navigate the brutalities of the civil war in Liberia in “Eclipsed,” the second play in the Yale Repertory Theatre’s 2009-2010 season.

Written by Obie Award-winning playwright Danai Gurira, “Eclipsed” is directed by Liesl Tommy. It will be staged Oct. 24-Nov. 14 in the Yale Rep, corner of York and Chapel streets.

Set in 2003, “Eclipsed” looks at the “wives” of a rebel commanding officer, who have formed a community in a hostile war zone. Their world is transformed by the arrival of two newcomers and the unceremonious return of a former “wife” turned rebel soldier. The play explores how each woman finds her own means of survival, and at what cost.

In an interview on the website of Princeton University’s McCarter Theatre, where the play was workshopped, Gurira said of the inspiration behind “Eclipsed”: “I was rehearsing another play in my final year of grad school at NYU and my director showed me a New York Times article that had a picture of the Liberian woman rebel fighter, Black Diamond. She’s quite well known at this point and her corps of women was quite feared during the Liberian war. I became very intrigued and marveled at these women and how rarely we hear and see the stories of women and war and their role therein, specifically African women. We always hear about African war, but we never really hear about women and how they navigate and survive a war terrain. So that spurred my interest and it went from there.”

Born in the United States to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe, Gurira co-created and performed in the award-winning two-woman play “In the Continuum,” which premiered Off-Broadway and toured the United States (including Yale Rep in 2007) and Southern Africa. For her work on that production, Gurira received the 2007 Helen Hayes Award (Best Actress), a 2006 Obie Award, the 2006 Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award, and the 2004 Global Tolerance Award (Friends of the United Nations), and was honored by the Theatre Hall of Fame. Her recent acting credits include the film “The Visitor” and Lincoln Center Theater’s production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” She has taught playwriting and acting in Liberia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and is developing a play about the current situation in Zimbabwe with the Royal Court in London and completing another Zimbabwean piece titled “The Convert.”

Director Tommy is a native of Cape Town, South Africa. She previously directed the McCarter Theatre workshop and world premiere of “Eclipsed” at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Among numerous other productions, she has directed the world premieres of “A History of Light” (Contemporary American Theatre Festival), “Angela’s Mixtape” (Synchronicity Performance Group, New Georges), “The Good Negro” (Sundance Theatre Institute, Dallas Theater Center, The Public Theater) and “A Stone’s Throw” (Women’s Project). She was awarded the NEA/TCG Directors Grant and the New York Theatre Workshop Casting/Directing Fellowship, is a member of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab and Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, and is a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect. Tommy has taught directing at Trinity Rep/Brown University’s M.F.A. Directing Program and acting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

The cast of “Eclipsed” features Pascale Armand, Zainab Jah, Adepero Oduye, Stacey Sargeant and Shona Tucker.

The production features sets by Germán Cárdenas Alaminos, costumes by Elizabeth Barrett Groth, lighting by Marcus Doshi, sound by The Broken Chord Collective, dramaturgy by Walter Byongsok Chon, vocal and dialect coaching by Beth McGuire and stage management by Karen Hashley.

“Eclipsed” will be performed at 8 p.m. nightly Tuesday-Saturday, with 2 p.m. matinees on three Saturdays, Oct. 31 and Nov. 7 and 14. There will be a Monday performance on Oct. 26.

Special events being held in conjunction with the show include a Grad Night reception at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25; Opening Night at 8 p.m. on Oct. 29; and a Senior Reception at 1 p.m. on Nov. 4. There will be “Talk Back” discussions with the production cast and crew following the 2 p.m. performances on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7, and the 8 p.m. performance on Nov. 5. The matinee on Nov. 7 will be an open-captioned performance, and the matinee on Nov. 14 will be an audio-description performance.

Tickets for “Eclipsed” range from $35 to $67 and are available online at www.yalerep.org; by phone at (203) 432-1234; and in person at the Yale Rep box office, 1120 Chapel St. (at York Street). Student, senior, group and Yale Pass rates are also available. (See related story below.)


Yale Pass offers savings on theater tickets

The Yale Pass is designed to offer both theater-going flexibility and substantial savings to University faculty, staff and students.

Each pass includes six tickets which are good throughout the season at the Yale Repertory Theatre. The tickets - which cost $170 versus the regular six-ticket pass cost of $270 — can be used in any combination on the dates of your choice. You can see all six shows once, or share your tickets with family and friends at the same performance. When you’ve used all six tickets, you can purchase another Yale Pass at the same savings over regular ticket prices.

Yale Pass Holders can redeem passes online, by phone or in person, and receive parking discounts at nearby garages.

For more information, visit www.yalerep.org/box_office/yale.html.

The remaining shows in the Yale Rep season include: “Eclipsed,” Oct. 24-Nov. 14; the world premiere of the musical “Pop!” Nov. 27-Dec. 19; “Compulsion,” Feb. 5-27; “Servant of Two Masters,” March 12-April 3; and “Battle of Black and Dogs,” April 16-May 8.