NPR logo 'Eclipsed': Rebel Sex Slaves In A Far Away Jungle

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'Eclipsed': Rebel Sex Slaves In A Far Away Jungle

A scene from the 'Eclipsed' by playwright Danai Gurira. Stan Barouh/Woolly Mammoth hide caption

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Stan Barouh/Woolly Mammoth

A scene from the 'Eclipsed' by playwright Danai Gurira.

Stan Barouh/Woolly Mammoth

People always want to know what it's like to cover (fill in the blank here, usually some third world hell hole, or a war, or just some patriarchal region of the world) as a WOMAN. I never have an answer to that. I'm Western, I'm white, and I'm a journalist.

As far as I can tell, I don't really register as a WOMAN to many people in these places.

In Kuwait, there are special clubs where men — and only men — gather to play card games and smoke a hubbly bubbly. But I could march right in, recorder in hand, and sit alongside the men to interview them. In Africa, I would fly to some capitol, check into the best (a relative term!) hotel in town, and spend my 10-day visa driving around with a hired car and driver — always a man. I interviewed plenty of women. But no matter how kind I was, or how much I delved into the details of their daily lives, the vast gulf between our situations was plain as day. And while I made a point of interviewing women, framing many stories around their concerns, there were some — especially in war zones — who simply remained invisible.

These are the women Danai Gurira brings to stage in her new play, "Eclipsed."

The play is set in a rebel base deep in Liberia's jungle, in the house shared by three wives of a rebel commander.

They are sex slaves.

A woman is called into the rebel hut at-will. On her return, she dips a washcloth into a basin and cleans her private parts with all the mundane ritual of someone washing her hands. A fourth wife, desperate to escape and gain some sense of control, has taken up a gun and joined the rebel forces.

Gurira is an American, raised in Zimbabwe, and the power of her play is to bridge that gulf between Africans and Westerners.

"The only thing that differs from us is geography," she told us.

And by the end of her play, you really will understand the motivations, fears, and small joys of a rebel sex-slave in a faraway jungle.