Written by Asli Shebe
For an hour and thirty minutes modern day Savannah, Georgia transforms into 2003 Liberia, five American SCAD students become sex slaves and the sanctuary that is Sulfur Studios morphs into an army camp in the midst of the civil war.
The SCAD staging of “Eclipsed” doesn’t just tell a gut-wrenching story of survival, trauma and perseverance during times of war in Liberia in under two hours, it tells the story of any woman who has experienced turmoil, faced the threat of death, lost their sense of self or found themselves in an emotionally, mentally and/or physically abusive relationship.
“It’s still a present day problem,” said Houston, Texas native and performing arts major, Trachel Yvette Green.
“Even though this is 2003 there are still women that are enslaved or forced to be in marriage against their will. And I just thought that it was an important story and what better time to tell it than for my senior thesis.”
Green was inspired by a scene from “Eclipsed” that she performed in Professors Ott’s Truth in Acting class. After some encouragement from Ott, she cast for the play in the fall.
The play calls Green’s hand-picked, all-black, all-female, all-SCAD cast to dig deep into their experiences and summon whatever skill and strength they may have to embody Helena (Wife #1) played by Green, Maima (Wife #2) played by McQuisha Smith, Bessie (Wife #3) played by Alisha Frier, The Girl (Wife #4) played by Amelia Bently and Rita, played by Maria Oyelola.
With no experiences of being sex slaves and having never been to Liberia, these women were faced with the challenge of working from very little to create and become the five real-life women that inspired writer Danai Gurira. And that they did, with each of them performing moments of tear-inducing and raw emotion, breaths of comedic relief and hauntingly human portrayals of women in warfare.
Despite the heavy content and the more-than-mature themes, there is one thing Green wants the audience to walk away with, and that is hope.
“You might think that you are at the end or that you have nothing left, you might be in an abusive relationship because slavery and bondage comes in many forms it doesn’t just have to be the wife,” she explained.
“But in the end you can do anything you set your mind to and I think that’s the biggest thing. To always have hope and don’t ever think that it’s a dead end you still have options and you don’t have to be bound to your current situation,” she said.
And with her own hope and belief in the story, the power of theatre and the tenacity of her ensemble came a transcendent representation of “Eclipsed.” It may be five-thousand miles away from Liberia but it is close enough to your face for you to witness and understand these women’s lives amidst the civil war.
The actresses will perform “Eclipsed” a final time on Saturday, May 27, at Sulfur Studios at 2 p.m.