By Kristen Oliveri.
Know their Name: Eclipsed
Tony-nominated play Eclipsed has been dazzling audiences since its debut on Broadway at the Golden Theater in March after a limited run at the Public Theater. This female-led and directed production, the brainchild of actor and playwright Danai Gurira, presents a powerful message to empower women and to show their resiliency and spirit in the face of war. Gurira views this production as an outlet to give voice to a movement where by the cast and crew dedicate each performance to a girl or group of girls who have been abducted all over the world—naming them individually and having a cast member proudly proclaim, “Know their name.”
This production showcases a cornucopia of powerhouse female actors including Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, Pascale Armand, Akosua Busia, Zainab Jah and Saycon Sengbloh. The very close-knit group of women brings the audience to Liberia in a rebel camp where they are living amidst civil war and upheaval and three of the women are “married” to a commander in the Liberian army. The story doesn’t shy away from topics like rape, violence and self-preservation, but rather puts it in the center of the conversation under the direction of Liesl Tommy.
While Nyong’o gives a true tour de force performance, the scenes that are most moving and powerful are those when the four wives interact with each other, each signifying uniquely different reactions to how they’ve chosen to cope within their surroundings and learn to just to survive. A turning point in the plotline is when emissary Rita comes in search of her daughter and decides to help these women escape to freedom. While they were all resistant, she began to break down the walls they had built up by asking for their given name, changing the course of their lives.
Eclipsed is certainly a name that will not soon be forgotten.
Fiddler Comes Full Circle
Fiddler on the Roof’s first run on Broadway came at a time when Jews in the United States were still very much assimilating into American culture. The show and its message, helped make that connection for Jewish people and non-Jewish people alike around the world promoting tolerance and understanding. Today, the show is continuing its legacy and impact for a different generation and a different circumstance.
Currently starring in Fiddler on Broadway in the role of Mordcha the Innkeeper is Michael Bernardi, a theater and film actor whose father played the starring role of Tevye nearly 50 years ago. While it can be argued that he has theater in his blood, given his father and grandparents predilection for the stage, it was apparent that acting was his personal career choice too when at the age of 9, Bernardi performed in front of packed houses at the world famous Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. “I grew up in a very artistic environment and have this natural inclination towards it,” said Bernardi. “When you get to connect with 300 people like that and you hear roaring laughter, you’re hooked.”
Presently, Bernardi has the immense honor of putting on parts of his father’s original costume each night to perform a show he truly believes in. “When I first booked this job, I thought it was so life affirming to be connected with my father who passed away when I was a year and a half old,” he said. “It’s so exciting to also be doing a show that’s investigating the refugee crisis which helps put into context what’s going on in the world. While I recognize my specific connection to their piece, it’s meant for something so much bigger than myself.”