Why Eclipsed is making Tony history and breaking glass ceilings

Nominated for 6 Tony Awards this season, Eclipsed truly is one of a kind. Penned by Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead fame and starring Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed offers something completely unique to both the Tonys and current stage politics: and all female cast and female lead creatives.

Last year the team behind Fun Home made history as the first female writing team to win for Best Original Score. That revelation took a lot of people off-guard, including myself. However, it came as no surprise to me that Eclipsed premiered at The Public Theater, where Fun Home and Hamilton also launched. The Public, along with a good portion of Off-Broadway theatres have become hubs for diverse stage work, and have slowly been pushing that trend towards larger Broadway stages.

0f5d320b023c4b2f850f6a7067003121

In recent years, the move and trend towards diversity in stage work  has been bumpy to say the least, but Eclipsed offers yet another milestone- not only are the cast all women, but they are all women of color. This extends to the creative team too, where all members are either a person of color or female, something almost completely unheard of on Broadway either historically or currently.

The show itself is based in Liberia during the country’s still ongoing civil war. Four of the women featured are all wives of a rebel general who’s lives are turned upside down when a new wife is brought to the compound.

07eclipsedjp-facebookjumbo

Rather than focus on the war at large, Gurira chose to focus on those it still affects most: the women captives, the wives of war, and female soldiers. I discovered that Gurira wrote the script after research and a trip to Liberia, where she interviewed women who would become the basis for her characters. These women have been captured by Liberian rebel forces and forced to become soldier wives to strengthen the rebel cause. Many are raped and assaulted, all are held hostage.

Read about Danai Gurira’s trip: here

This tie to reality allowed me to become completely engrossed in the script, as the women struggle to live, hope for peace, and find comfort in each other. Often times, scripts fall prey to the “strong woman” stereotype, but the way that Gurira writes these characters and Liesl Tommy directs them never feels contrived. The conflict that the protagonists face feels real because it is literally rooted in reality.

Many critics have pointed to Eclipsed as revolutionary because the voice it gives to the unheard, and I have to agree. All female casts are rare enough, but combined with this subject matter puts the play in another league. Both Gurira and Tommy are African born, and their passion for African women and their voices is clear. They say, and I agree, that shining a light on the Liberian struggle through performance allows audiences to access the hardships in a more meaningful way.

Having only read the script and not seen a full performance, I can only comment about the writing of Danai Gurira and direction of Liesl Tommy, but the acting nominations point to a strong cast as well.

uptown_broadway_cover

Lupita Nyong’o already has an Academy Award for her work in 12 Years A Slave, so her nomination for Leading Actress here seems to reflect her ability. Also nominated in the acting categories are Pascale Armand and Saycon Sengbloh for Featured Actress. Clint Ramos is also nominated for Costume Design.

Out of all Tony eligible new plays, Eclipsed has the most nominations (tied with The Humans at 6 each). Movie, television, and theatre critics alike have historically pointed to the lack of female driven performances and reasoned that the gap exists because these pieces aren’t engaging or entertaining. Eclipsed has provided the next brick in the wall of female driven performances, and with 6 nominations and critical acclaim, it is a strong brick indeed.

Tony Nominations: Part 1

The day is finally here: Tony Noms day. For Broadway it’s almost like Christmas in…May? Because the nominations list is long, we’re going to split up our nomination posts- one for the nominated plays and one for the nominated musicals. Up first: the nominated plays!

Best Play:

Eclipsed                                        King Charles III            

eclipsed-102015                                13715-3

 

The Father                                    The Humans 

80651-3                                  the-humans-poster

 

 

Best Revival of a Play:

Blackbird                                                                         The Crucible

blackbird-broadway-logo-e1456797702195                                  14095-3

 

Long Day’s Journey Into Night                                 Noises Off

caoneeswyaavx3e                                      noisesoff

 

A View From The Bridge

13824-3

 

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Gabriel Bryne

Blackbird-
Jeff Daniels

The Father-
Frank Langella

King Charles III-
Tim Pigott-Smith

A View From The Bridge-
Mark Strong

 

Best Performance of a Leading Actress in a Play:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Jessica Lange

Misery-
Laurie Metcalf

Eclipsed-
Lupita Nyong’o

The Crucible-
Sophie Okonedo

Blackbird-
Michelle Williams

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:

The Humans-
Reed Birney

The Crucible-
Bill Camp

Noises Off-
David Furr

King Charles III-
Richard Goulding

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Michael Shannon

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:

Eclipsed-
Pascale Armand

Eclipsed-
Saycon Sengbloh

Noises Off-
Megan Hilty

Noises Off-
Andrea Martin

The Humans-
Jayne Houdyshell

 

Best Scenic Design of a Play:

Thérèse Raquin-
Beowulf Borritt

Hughie-
Christopher Oram

The Humans-
David Zinn

A View From The Bridge-
Jan Versweyveld

 

Best Costume Design of a Play:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Jane Greenwood

Noises Off-
Michael Krass

Eclipsed-
Clint Ramos

King Charles III-
Tom Scutt

 

Best Lighting Design of a Play:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Natasha Katz

The Humans-
Justin Townsend

The Crucible-
Jan Versweyveld

A View From The Bridge-
Jan Versweyveld

 

Best Direction of a Play:

King Charles III-
Rupert Goold

Long Day’s Journey Into Night-
Jonathan Kent

The Humans-
Joe Mantello

Eclipsed-
Liesl Tommy

A View From The Bridge-
Ivo Van Hove

 


 

Final Count

Most nominations:  7 nominations- Long Day’s Journey Into Night

6 nominations- Eclipsed (in 5 categories)

The Humans

5 nominations- King Charles III

A View From The Bridge

Noises Off (in 4 categories)

 

Eligible Plays with no nominations:

  • An Act of God (new)
  • China Doll (new)
  • Our Mother’s Brief Affair (new)
  • Fool For Love (revival)
  • Fully Committed (revival)
  • The Gin Game (revival)
  • Old Times (revival)
  • Sylvia (revival

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.