Art Director Deanna Donegan called me last week for an illustration to accompany a piece about the play Eclipsed. Written by Danai Gurira, the play features Lupita Nyong’o in her Broadway debut. It follows the story of four captive wives of a rebel general during the last days of Civil War in 2003 Liberia.
The initial hook of this piece is Nyong’o’s New York stage debut. When I got the assignment, researching the stage play quickly gave way to researching the Liberian Civil War and absorbing as much documentation of that experience as possible. The playwright made a comment in an interview that she saw the violence of the war as a passing darkness eclipsing the light of their lives; that the darkness was transitional. I wanted to invoke that idea in the illustration and to represent the tension of the characters and their experiences as the war drew to an end.
The stills I came across from former stage productions of Eclipse revealed a sense of close-quarteredness that piqued my interest. I wanted to capture the essence that emerged from both aspects of research, while presenting an image that reads clearly in a small format.
I enjoyed the room for theatricality in this assignment. The theatre provides a controlled, heightened environment. In illustrating a dramatization there is often a bit more breadth to experiment with lighting and color in a fun way, and to evoke a more stylized aesthetic. Deanna, as always, was wonderful to collaborate with, trusting my input, and allowing me to experiment.