Eclipsed explores Liberian Civil War April 1-10

Performing Arts Department presents sharp-edged drama by Danai Gurira

Amidst the chaos of the most recent Liberian Civil War, four women are kidnapped and forced to serve as “wives” to a rebel warlord

It is perhaps the unlikeliest community imaginable, and daunting territory for any dramatist. Yet Eclipsed, a recent work by acclaimed actress and playwright Danai Gurira, is at once sharp-edged, humanizing and surprisingly funny — a portrait of resilience in even the most difficult of circumstances.

Next month, Washington University’s Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences will present Eclipsed for six performances in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre.

Shows begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 3. Performances continue the following weekend, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10. The A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

Tickets are $15, or $10 for students, seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff, and are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office and all MetroTix outlets.

For more information, call (314) 935-6543.

Set in a remote rebel encampment, Eclipsed opens in June 2003, during the waning months of the fight against former Liberian president Charles Taylor (who is currently on trial in Paris for war crimes).

The four women, led by the willful chief wife, are known not by their names — indeed, at least one woman has forgotten hers — but by numbers corresponding to their places in the “household” hierarchy.

“This is very much a character-driven play,” says director Andrea Urice, senior lecturer in the PAD. “The first ‘wife’ is 25 but has been aged by her experiences and seems decades older. She is also very much in charge.

“Number Three is pregnant with the commanding officer’s baby,” Urice continues. “The youngest girl is just 15 years old, and at first she’s hidden by the others. Later, she is discovered by the officer — who we never see — and is made Number Four.”

The second wife, however, charts a somewhat different, and more violent, path.

“Number Two actually leaves the compound to join the rebel soldiers,” Urice says. “She takes up a gun and participates in atrocities. But we also understand that she has faced a horrendous set of choices.

“In those circumstances, her decision seems, perhaps, as valid as any other,” Urice adds. “There’s no safety in this world, and little comfort.

“Yet there are moments of unexpected humor,” Urice says. For example, as the camp becomes littered with wartime plunder, the women find a discarded biography of Bill Clinton. “Number Four, who is partially literate, reads to the group about ‘the big man of America’ — including the Monica Lewinsky scandal — much to their collective amusement.

“Though each woman struggles to find her own means of survival, they do find ways to support one another,” Urice concludes. “It’s a tough story, but also profoundly moving.”

The four women are played, respectively, by Jessica Davie, Eboni Sharp, Eboney Hutt and Vanika Spencer.

Rounding out the five-person cast is Yasmin Boakye as a peace worker from the Liberian Woman’s Initiative, which attempted to negotiate cease-fires and otherwise mediate the conflict.

Set designs are by James Wolk, a visiting artist in the PAD, with costumes by Sallie Durbin, costume shop supervisor. Lighting is by Sean Savoie, lecturer in drama and coordinator of the PAD’s Design-Technical Theater Program, with sound by lecturer Tim Albert. Prop master is senior Rebecca Dieffenbach. Stage manager is recent alumna Samantha Halstead.


WHO: Washington University Performing Arts Department

WHAT: Eclipsed by Danai Gurira; directed by Andrea Urice

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 3; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 10

WHERE: A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre, Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

COST:$15; $10 for seniors, students and Washington University faculty and staff. Available at the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.

INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543