If you’re only familiar with Danai Gurira from her role as Michonne on “The Walking Dead,” AMC’s hit zombie apocalypse drama, it’s time to familiarize yourself with her other works, namely her notable theater career as a playwright.
Gurira has two plays running in New York at the moment. The first, “Eclipsed,” is a drama about four women held as sexual slaves by a warlord during the Liberian civil war. It stars Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, and opened on Broadway after a successful run at the Public Theater last year. As the L.A. Times notes, it’s believed to be the first play in Broadway history written, directed by and starring women.
The second, “Familiar,” is playing at Playwright’s Horizons and follows the story of a Zimbabwean American family in the days leading up to the daughter’s marriage to a white man. Gurira said that “Familiar” is a more personal story that reflects incidents in her own family. She was inspired to write the play after attending a similar wedding. “A relative was marrying a white man from the Midwest, a lovely man who had been to Africa and spent time working there. She had never been, and she was the one with the African name,” she explained.
Like many women, Gurira began writing because she was unsatisfied with the roles she was being offered or saw available to her. “I couldn’t find anything that satisfied me anyway so that’s why I started to create narratives myself,” says Gurira. “It was really a necessity being the mother of invention.”