Eclipsed is a play written by Danai Gurira. It takes place in 2003 and tells the story of five Liberian women and their tale of survival near the end of the Second Liberian Civil War. It became the first play with an all-black and female creative cast and team to premiere on Broadway.

Written byDanai Gurira
CharactersHelena (Wife #1)
Maima (Wife #2)
Bessie (Wife #3)
The Girl (Wife #4)
Date premieredSeptember 2009 (2009-09)
Original languageEnglish
SubjectSisterhood, Rape, Kidnapping, Survival, Peace
SettingIn a small, one room shack on the Liberian compound
Official site

Eclipsed premiered at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company[1] in Washington, DC in 2009, then opened in London at the Gate Theatre in April 2015 in a production starring Letitia Wright.[2] An American Off-Broadway production followed shortly afterwards at The Public Theater in October 2015 with positive reviews and ran until November 2015. The following year, it transferred to Broadway, premiering at the John Golden Theatre with an opening on March 6, 2016. Its Broadway run closed on June 19, 2016.[3]



Eclipsed takes place in the country of Liberia in 2003 at a bullet-ridden one room shack, which serves as an army camp for the rebel group called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), which aimed to depose Charles Taylor, the then president of Liberia. The unseen Commanding Officer kidnaps two young women (Helena & Bessie) and makes them his "wives" by forcing them to have sex with him whenever he wants it. The women are helping to care for a bright 15-year-old (The Girl), who has also been abducted and raped after being discovered by the C.O.. Soon, Maima returns from the battlefield, where she was fighting as a soldier. She tries to convince The Girl to leave the C.O. and become a soldier with her. Rita, who works for a peace organization, makes occasional visits at the compound to end conflict. The Girl now seems to resign herself to her new life in the compound with limited options to choose from—stay with an abusive C.O. or become a soldier, while the others will try to make sense of this difficult situation.

Development and productions

Eclipsed was penned by Zimbabwean American actress and playwright Danai Gurira.

Gurira's inspiration for the play was a photo of Black Diamond, a female Liberian freedom fighter, in The New York Times. The image prompted curiosity about Liberia's fourteen-year civil wars and a trip to Liberia in 2007. Gurira interviewed more than 30 women—who had been raped, among whose daughters that had been taken by rebel fighters and turned into sex slaves. She also spoke to female peace activists who were instrumental in ending the violence. The names of the women in Eclipsed come from the people Gurira met during her travels, whereas the fifth character is unnamed.[4]

Eclipsed was developed at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., where the play first premiered in September 2009 and was directed by South African director Liesl Tommy.[5] During its Washington, D.C. run, Eclipsed ran at the Center Theatre Group in Culver City, California, from September to October 2009, where play was directed by Robert O'Hara.[6] Soon, the play ran at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut from October to November 2009, where it was also directed by Tommy.[7]

While filming The Walking Dead in Atlanta, Georgia, Gurira traveled back and forth to New York City, where she was preparing for The Public Theater's run of Eclipsed.[4] The production was added to The Public Theater's 2015–16 season and it began Off-Broadway previews on September 29 with an opening night for October 14 at The Public's LuEsther Theater. The play was directed by Liesl Tommy and it starred Lupita Nyong'o as The Girl, Saycon Sengbloh as Helena, Akosua Busia as Rita, Zainab Jah as Maima, and Pascale Armand as Bessie.[8] Eclipsed was extended several times until the play closed on November 29, 2015.[9] It became The Public's fastest-selling new production in recent history.[10]

The Off-Broadway production of Eclipsed transferred to Broadway at the John Golden Theatre, with cast reprising their respective roles. Tommy, who directed The Public Theater's production, directed the Broadway production. Eclipsed began previews on February 23, 2016, with an official opening on March 6, 2016. The play marked the Broadway debut for Nyong'o, who turned down Hollywood films to bring the production to Broadway.[9][11] The production was a limited engagement and closed on June 19, 2016, after 14 previews and 121 regular performances.[3]

Gurira and Tommy joined the cast of Eclipsed in June 2016, where they surprised the audience during the curtain call live on Facebook to announce plans for Carole Shorenstein Hays to bring the production to the West Coast at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, California for a limited engagement in Spring 2017.[12]

Characters and original casts

Character Woolly Mammoth Theatre (2009)[13] Yale Repertory Theatre (2009)[13] Off-Broadway Cast (2015)[14] Broadway Cast (2016)[15]
Helena (Wife Number One) Uzo Aduba Stacey Sargeant Saycon Sengbloh
Maima (Wife Number Two) Jessica Frances Dukes Zainab Jah
Bessie (Wife Number Three) Liz Femi Wilson Pascale Armand
The Girl (Wife Number Four) Ayesha Ngaujah Adepero Oduye Lupita Nyong'o
Rita Dawn Ursula Shona Tucker Akosua Busia

Sengbloh left the Off-Broadway show and was replaced by Stacey Sargeant on November 3 until the end of the production.[16] She made her return as the role of Helena in the Broadway production.

Awards and nominations


Off-Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Lucille Lortel Awards[17] Outstanding Play Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Clint Ramos Nominated
Outstanding Director Liesl Tommy Won
Obie Awards[18] Obie Award for Distinguished Performance by an Ensemble Lupita Nyong'o, Saycon Sengbloh, Pascale Armand, Akosua Busia and Zainab Jah Won
Drama Desk Awards[19] Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Saycon Sengbloh Won
Sam Norkin Award Danai Gurira Won

Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Outer Critics Circle Award[20] Outstanding New Broadway Play Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Play Lupita Nyong'o Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Pascale Armand Won
Zainab Jah Nominated
Saycon Sengbloh Nominated
Drama League Award[21] Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play Nominated
Distinguished Performance Award Lupita Nyong'o Nominated
Theatre World Award[22] Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance Lupita Nyong'o Won Audience Awards[23] Favorite Leading Actress in a Play Lupita Nyong'o Won
The Lilly Awards[24] Playwright Award Danai Gurira Won
Tony Award[25] Tony Award for Best Play Nominated
Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play Lupita Nyong'o Nominated
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play Saycon Sengbloh Nominated
Pascale Armand Nominated
Tony Award for Best Costume Design Clint Ramos Won
Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play Liesl Tommy Nominated

Critical response


The production received positive reviews On and Off-Broadway. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times wrote a rave review, stating "The superlative performances from all five actors, under Ms. Tommy's sensitive direction, draw us so deeply into the lives of the women that this darkness nevertheless flickers with glimmers of light, humanity and even hope." Isherwood went on to praise Nyongo's performance: "Ms. Nyong'o delivers this harrowing monologue with a disoriented sense of helplessness and shame that cuts to the bone."[26] Adam Feldman of Time Out New York gave the play four stars and wrote that "all four of the actors portraying these women are superb; Nyong'o is as radiant as one would expect from this rising star, but the others shine as brightly".[27] Marilyn Stasio of Variety wrote: "...the play gives voice to women ranging from the wives of warlords to activists in Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace..."[28]

Robert Kahn of NBC New York described Eclipsed as a "colorful and fiery drama".[29] Jeremy Gerald of Deadline wrote: "Eclipsed is a major achievement - a scorching work about women and war whose humor burnishes rather than undermines its seriousness of purpose. And it features a ferociously committed ensemble performances staged with power and finesse by Leisl Tommy".[30] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly felt the script didn't match up to the cast. However, she went on and praised the performances: "Nyong'o is captivating to watch, as are all the women in the cast....the overall impact is still startling..."[31] Los Angeles Times critic Charles McNulty praised Nyong'o's performance as: "This is an ensemble piece, not a star vehicle, but Nyong'o can't help standing out even as the girl becomes a fully fledged member of this unenviable community of war-ravaged women. Her plight is terrifying, and Nyong'o makes the tragedy achingly personal."[32]


  • Gurira, Danai. Eclipsed. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2010. ISBN 978-0-822-22446-4


  1. ^ "Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company - Past Performances".
  2. ^ "Eclipsed (Gate Theatre) | WhatsOnStage". 28 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b Gans, Andrew; Clement, Olivia (June 19, 2016). "Eclipsed, Starring Lupita Nyong'o, Ends Broadway Run". Playbill. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Diep, Tran (26 January 2016). "From 'The Walking Dead' to 'Eclipsed,' Danai Gurira Is Killing It Actor. Playwright. Activist. Zombie slayer. -- Is there anything she can't do?". American Theatre. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  5. ^ Harris, Paul (September 8, 2009). "Review: 'Eclipsed'". Variety.
  6. ^ "Eclipsed". Center Theatre Group. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  7. ^ "Play at Yale Rep Looks at Liberian Women in a War Zone", October 16, 2009
  8. ^ Guglielmi, Jodi (3 February 2016). "Lupita Nyong'o Urges for a 'Diversity of Stories to Be Told' as Ryan Murphy Launches Foundation to Support Minorities in Filmmaking". People. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b Paulson, Michael (October 20, 2015). "Lupita Nyong'o Coming to Broadway in 'Eclipsed'". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  10. ^ BWW News Desk (20 January 2016). "TV Personality La La Anthony Boards Producing Team of ECLIPSED on Broadway". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  11. ^ Nyong'o, Lupita (3 May 2016). "Lupita Nyong'o, Why I Chose a "Small Play" Over the Big Screen". LennyLetter. Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  12. ^ Brady, Louisa. "2016 Tony-Award Nominated Best Play ECLIPSED Will Have West Coast Premiere Engagement at The Curran Next Spring". Broadway World. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  13. ^ a b Gurira, Danai (2010). Eclipsed. Dramatists Play Service (New York, N.Y.). New York. ISBN 978-0-8222-2446-4. OCLC 701395215.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  15. ^ "Eclipsed at John Golden Theatre". Playbill. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  16. ^ Webber, Imogen Lloyd (20 October 2015). "Stacey Sargeant Will Replace Saycon Sengbloh in Eclipsed, Starring Lupita Nyong'o, Off-Broadway". Broadway. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  17. ^ "Lucille Lortel Awards: The Winners List". The Hollywood Reporter. May 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Ben Platt, Lupita Nyong'o, Georgia Engel, and More Win 2016 Obie Awards--The full list of winners has been revealed". Theatermania. 23 May 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  19. ^ "2016 Nominees". Drama Desk Awards. Archived from the original on 25 February 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  20. ^ "American Psycho and She Loves Me Lead 2016 Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations". Theater Mania. 19 April 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  21. ^ "THE 82nd ANNUAL DRAMA LEAGUE AWARDS". Drama League Awards. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  22. ^ "Theatre World Awards Announce 2016 Winners--They will be celebrated at the 72nd annual ceremony May 23". Playbill. 2 May 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  23. ^ "Hamilton Dominates 2016 Audience Choice Awards; Spring Awakening, Lupita Nyong'o Also Win Big". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  24. ^ Clement, Olivia (23 May 2016). "Jessie Mueller, Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira Step Out for The Lilly Awards Tonight--The star-studded annual ceremony celebrates women of distinction in theatre". Playbill. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  25. ^ "See Full List of 2016 Tony Award Nominations--". Playbill. 3 May 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  26. ^ Isherwood, Charles (14 October 2015). "Review: In 'Eclipsed,' Female Captives in Liberia's Civil War Seek Sustenance". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  27. ^ Feldman, Adam (14 October 2015). "Eclipsed: Theater review by Adam Feldman". Time Out New York. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  28. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (14 October 2015). "Off Broadway Review: Lupita Nyong'o in 'Eclipsed,' From 'Walking Dead's' Danai Gurira". Variety. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  29. ^ Kahn, Robert (6 March 2016). "Lupita Nyong'o Makes Broadway Debut in War Drama 'Eclipsed'". NBC New York. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  30. ^ Gerald, Jeremy (6 March 2016). "With Her Broadway Debut, Lupita Nyong'o Lights Up 'Eclipsed', Danai Gurira's Savagely Funny War Drama – Review". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  31. ^ Greenblatt, Leah (6 March 2016). "Eclipsed: EW stage review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  32. ^ McNulty, Charles (6 March 2016). "Review A Broadway first: In Danai Gurira's harrowing 'Eclipsed,' the writer, director and stars are all women". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 April 2016.