Women’s and Gender Studies brings group to play Eclipsed

WGS and students travel to Providence for historical play- Eclipsed by ....
By Zack Downing, Staff Writer

The Women’s and Gender Studies program is one of the most active groups on campus in terms of community events, bringing us spectacular activities like the annual Drag Show.

On Thursday, October 19, the WGS program will be hosting a trip to Providence, Rhode Island, for a showing of the play Eclipsed in the Barker Playhouse.

Written by Patricia Burke Brogan, this play (not to be confused with the Broadway play Eclipsed, starring Lupita Nyong’o) is a condemnation of the dictates that the Catholic Church had against women in the past.

It’s set in the fictional Irish town of Killamacha in 1963, at an institutional laundry.

Slaving in the laundry are hundreds of women, the penitents, women who have sinned by bearing illegitimate children, having sex outside of marriage, or being raped.

These women, having been given up by society, men, and their own families, are indentured to the church.

They are watched over by the dictatorial Mother Victoria, their nun and chief warder, to stifle them and keep them from the outside world.

Eclipsed comes from real accounts of women in a real historical time, when pregnant and unwed Irish mothers were forced to slave in churches as penitents.

Nuns lorded over them like plantation owners and forcibly put their infants up for adoption. The mothers indentured in these churches for their supposed sexual sins would usually never see their children again.

This brutal system existed in Ireland for a century and a half before it was finally outlawed in 1970. The name of the play comes from the status of Irish women at that time; they were basically eclipsed from history.

The play was first performed in 1992, only about 20 years after the atrocities had finally ceased. It was published in print form only five years later, and is available for purchase online and at certain retailers.

The Women’s and Gender Studies program hosted the trip to this play to remind students of the harsh truth that slavery and injustice against women isn’t just ancestral history.

The WGS program reiterates that it happened less than 50 years ago, in many of our parents’ lifetimes.

Before seeing the play, junior Grace Augello expressed her anticipation for it.

“I never learned anything about Irish slavery in history classes back in high school,” Augello exclaimed, “so seeing a reenactment of the stuff that went on will teach me more about these women I had never heard of.”

The next WGS event on campus will be The Clothesline Project, where students can decorate T-shirts to express their support for women who have been victims of domestic abuse.

After all students have finished decorating their shirts, they will all be hung on a clothesline, to act as a display honoring and supporting these women.

That will take place in the campus center at 10:00 am on October 24.

If you’re interested in seeing Eclipsed yourself, it will be playing in the Barkley Playhouse in Providence up through December 10.

Photo Courtesy: Zack Downing

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