ECLIPSED Begins Performances Next Month At Corrib Theatre
To kick off a season framed upon remembrance, resistance, and restitution, Corrib Theatre presents the Northwest Premiere of Patricia Burke Brogan's Eclipsed, directed by Corrib Artistic Director Gemma Whelan. Plumbing this appalling, Ireland-specific institution that's a shockingly relevant parallel to current U.S. incarceration and immigration practices, as well as reproductive rights policy, the all-female cast includes Victoria Alvarez-Chacon, Lorraine Bahr, Wynee Hu, Sasha Neufeld, Dainichia Noreault, Lucy Paschall, and Jamie Rea. Eclipsed runs for four weeks, September 20 through October 13, at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St., in Portland, Oregon.
In a Magdalene Laundry, where the nuns regard them as mindless vessels of evil and their infants are forcibly put up for adoption, a group of young unwed Irish mothers struggle, resist, and strive to overcome the onerous conditions imposed on them. Based on true accounts and written by an ex-nun who worked there, it's a story of both pain and hope.
Artistic Director Gemma Whelan, who will direct Eclipsed with an all-female cast and design team, has a long history with the play. Whelan directed the San Francisco Bay Area's premiere of Eclipsed with Wilde Irish Productions in 2003, which also ran at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco (2004). In Portland, Corrib Theatre produced a 2016 staged reading of the play under Whelan's direction.
"In 2017, The New York Times reported on the bodies of 796 babies found in a sewer outside a former Mother and Baby home in County Galway. The story had been uncovered by a local woman and this fall (2019) The Remains of those discarded children will be exhumed. The story of Eclipsed is not ancient history -- it needs to be told again to bear witness to the forgotten, to honor the unlived lives, to expose the perpetrators, and to hold up a mirror to the society that allowed this to happen. In Ireland today, and in Portland and the U.S.A., we should be asking which peoples are the latest victims of our desire to control our society, to mold it according to someone's image of an "ideal" citizenship? Who are we incarcerating now?"
- Gemma Whelan, play director and artistic director of Corrib Theatre
Eclipsed was first produced at Punchbag Theatre Company in 1992, and has since won many awards, including a Fringe First at Edinburgh Theatre Festival (1992), and the United States Moss Hart Award (1994). To date, there have been 61 productions of Eclipsed on three continents, but the work was not always so well received, being initially rejected by all of the main theatre companies, who said it was too controversial. Said playwright Patricia Burke Brogan: "...there was some backlash and I really suffered with that play. I had someone cut my picture out of the paper and draw horns and different symbols on it and send it to me. I got up one morning and this had been thrown in the door, which was very upsetting and hard to handle. People thought I was being anti-Church but I wasn't. Everyone blamed the sisters, but the State did nothing to intervene."
"I don't think I'm being nostalgic when I say that what happened in that small venue in the west of Ireland with this particular group of women transcended theatre. Or perhaps this is what the best sort of theatre was supposed to do," said Carol Hunt, one of the original cast members of Eclipsed, in an essay two years ago for The Irish Times about what Patricia Burke Brogan's play about the Magdalene Laundries, reproductive rights, and a group of teenage girls fighting to survive, still has to teach us.
For more information: 503-389-0579; https://corribtheatre.org/tickets