It is always a rare treat when an actor or actress is nominated for a Tony Award when making their Broadway debut. There are typically a few first-time nominees each year, but rarely is that person also appearing on Broadway for the first time. Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o is one of those rare talents that deserves more than a nomination for her first time on the Great White Way, but she deserves to take home the statue as well.
Audiences were first introduced to the talent of Lupita Nyong’o quite recently. She made her acting debut in 2008 with a short film called “East River” and then wrote, produced and directed her own documentary “In My Genes.” The film discusses the life of a pale person living in a dominantly black society portrayed through the story of Agnes, an albino woman living in Kenya, as well as seven other people who are discriminated against due to their genetics.
After the documentary Nyong’o went back to school, where she earned a master’s degree in acting from the prestigious Yale School of Drama. Following her time at Yale she received her big break, in a supporting role in Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.” Nyong’o won the Academy Award for her breakout performance as Patsey and became the first Kenyan and Mexican actress to win an Academy Award.
If Nyong’o has taught us anything, it is that she knows how to make a big first impression. Her Broadway debut comes as an unnamed girl in Danai Gurira’s “Eclipsed,” which tells the story of five Liberian women and their individual tales of survival during the Second Liberian Civil War. The play is notable for many reasons, including Nyong’o’s powerful performance but also for being the first play with an all black and all female cast and creative team to premiere on Broadway.
Critics have raved about “Eclipsed” and all the talents who appear on stage during the important production. TimeOutNY raved, “Nyong’o is as radiant as one would expect from this rising star” and Charles Isherwood of the “New York Times” offered, “Ms. Nyong’o delivers this harrowing monologue with a disoriented sense of helplessness and shame that cuts to the bone.” Clearly, Nyong’o is one actress to be watching.
The Tony Awards air Sunday, June 12th at 8/7c (live/delayed PT) on CBS.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.