ECLIPSED's Danai Gurira Advises Young Female Artists To 'Go Where You Are Loved'
It's possible that theatre history will be made on June 12th, as Danai Gurira's Tony-nominated ECLIPSED may become the first play written by a woman of color to be named the season's best.
But Gurira has already contributed a great deal to American theatre history this season. Her drama depicting the institutionalized rape of women during wartime has a rare subject matter for Broadway, and the fact the playwright, director and entire cast are women of color is a Broadway first.
Gurira was among the honorees at Monday night's 7th Annual Lilly Awards Ceremony, which celebrates women of distinction in the American Theater. Her co-honorees included Jessie Mueller, Kathy Najimy, Genne Murphy, Candis Jones, Rehana Lew Mirza, the women of Waking the Feminists, Martha Plimpton, Kate Whoriskey and Mia Katigbak.
Speaking to the audience, she told a story of how seven years ago she was introduced to Sarah Ruhl, who told her she had read ECLIPSED and thought it was "beautiful and powerful and important."
"At the time, I didn't know the world felt that way about the work," she said.
So as a way of reassuring the women playwrights who are following her, just as Ruhl did when she said those encouraging words about ECLIPSED, she offered this advice for young female artists:
Firstly, young female artist: Have a vision. Identify your outrage. The lack, that is unjustifiable, in what narratives are yet to be told. Embrace that burden on your heart to get that story told. That burden is a blessing. Then get to work. No excuses. No one in the world can do what you can do. Tell the story the way you only can tell it, so don't deprive the world of your uniqueness.
This is a big one: Go where you are loved. How many times did I have to learn that? And how often do I meet young other writers who speak about how this avenue and this artistic director and this agent didn't see something through, didn't respond the way they hoped and desired.
Don't let disappointment stop you. Go where you are loved, where your voice is embraced and your vision is respected. It may not be where you expect it or where you had hoped, but it may just be where you grow and are nurtured as an artist. It may just be where your breakthrough comes to pass. Don't let disappointment take hold. It's poison to your creativity. Stick to your vision and trust the right support will emerge if you keep doing your thing and putting yourself out there.
And lastly, be a finisher. Get it done. All the way. Embrace the right collaborators and get it done. It's not for you, it's for all those other young female writers out there who will be blessed and inspired by your product. It's for all the women you will employ. It's for those whose light will shine as a result of the excellence you pursued when you put those words on the page. And it's for the legacy you'll assist in building that annihilates the concept that women's concepts are weak, rare or unprofitable.
Set in Liberia, Danai Gurira's Eclipsed is now on Broadway direct from its sold-out, critically acclaimed production at The Public Theater last fall. Eclipsed is the story of five extraordinary women brought together by upheaval in their homeland of Liberia. They forge a close-knit community... one that inspires them to feats of increasingly greater strength. Eclipsed marks the first production in Broadway history to feature an all-female cast, playwright and director. The critically-acclaimed production is a limited engagement through June 19th. Eclipsed was recently nominated for 6 Tony Awards including Best Play.