Berkeley Rep Opens Nina Raine's TRIBES Tonight
Berkeley Repertory Theatre continues the second half of its season with Tribes, a sophisticated and moving family drama by celebrated British playwright Nina Raine. Her profound and powerful new play became an award-winning hit in London and New York. Now renowned director Jonathan Moscone brings it to Berkeley Rep this April for its Bay Area premiere. Tribes follows Billy, a young man who was born deaf into a loquacious and highly opinionated academic family who raised him to lip-read and integrate into the hearing world. When he meets Sylvia - raised by Deaf parents and going deaf herself - Billy decides it's time to speak on his own terms and to be heard. Playing out in words, sign language, and sometimes mesmerizing silence, this penetrating drama examines familial love, notions of belonging, and the intersections of communication. Tribes began previews Friday, April 11, opens tonight, April 16, and closes on Sunday, May 11, 2014.
"It's great to welcome Jonathan Moscone back to our stage to direct this very rich and layered drama," says Michael Leibert Artistic Director Tony Taccone. "The territory Tribes explores is new, riveting, and daunting. Playwright Nina Raine opens up an important dialogue about the fundamental gap that exists between people who can hear and those who can't. This is a brave story that has never been told on our stage. Berkeley Rep's hearing audience will hopefully gain access to a new world and the non-hearing audience will find a story that captures their experience."
"I'm honored to be back at Berkeley Rep to direct Nina's beautifully written play," says Moscone. "It's a wonderful challenge for me and I'm fortunate to be working with an extraordinary group of actors to tell a story that places this subject at its core, which is rare in the American theatre. Beyond that, this is a play about family, and the need to belong - to someone, to a group - to not feel alone. It's about the need to be heard and to be loved, for everything that you are."
"I first had the idea of writing Tribes when I watched a documentary about a deaf couple. The woman was pregnant and they wanted their baby to be deaf. I was struck by the thought that this was actually what many people feel, deaf or otherwise," says Raine. "Parents take great pleasure in witnessing the qualities they have managed to pass on to their children. The family is a tribe: an infighting tribe but intensely loyal. I thought about my own family full of its own eccentricities, rules, in-jokes, and punishments. What if someone in my family had been born deaf? All these things went into the play, and I'm so thrilled to introduce this work to Berkeley Rep's audience."
Tribes had its world premiere in 2010 at the Royal Court Theatre and its North American premiere off- Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre in 2012, where it won the 2012 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. It has since played throughout the country, sweeping critics and audiences off their feet. "Smart and sensitive!" hails the Los Angeles Times. "At the center of the work is an emotionally stirring hush, an eloquent stillness that is an oasis from the punishing din... More to the point of Raine's play, hearing is shown to depend more on an open heart than fully functioning ears." "The best-written, best-plotted, deepest, most daring - and funniest - new play in recent years!" proclaims the Wall Street Journal. "It's a paradox of sorts that a play about deafness should have such scintillating dialogue." "Big, brilliant...smart, lively...Tribes forces us to hear with our eyes," declares the New York Times. "The confrontations that arise from Billy's meeting Sylvia touch on a dizzying assortment of daunting topics...Listen closely, as this play asks, and you'll find yourself suspended on a swaying bridge between two worlds." "Subtle and scintillating," hails the New Yorker. "Tribes is as much about the tyranny of language as it is about the misery of not being able to hear it...In this provocative and original play, Raine keeps the ideas and the ironies coming until the final thrilling, paradoxical image...It forces the hearing audience to understand the poignancy of the struggle to transcend silence and the punishing limitations of speech."
Playwright Nina Raine began her career as a trainee director at the Royal Court Theatre after graduating from Oxford. She dramaturged and directed the hard-hitting verbatim play Unprotected at the Liverpool Everyman, for which she won both the TMA Best Director Award and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for an Outstanding Production on a Human Rights Theme. Unprotected was also nominated as Best Regional Production by Whatsonstage.com. Rabbit is Raine's first play, for which she won London's Evening Standard Award 2006 for Most Promising Playwright, the Critics' Circle Award 2006 for Most Promising Playwright, and was nominated as Best London Newcomer by Whatsonstage.com. The play was also shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award 2004. It premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre in 2006 and after a sell-out run transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in London's West End, followed by a production for Brits off- Broadway in New York, in 2007. Raine's second play, Tiger Country, was shortlisted for the Sphinx Theatre Brave New Roles Award, and is under commission at the Royal Court Theatre.
Director Jonathan Moscone is in his 14th season as artistic director of California Shakespeare Theater, where he most recently directed American Night: The Ballad of Juan José and where he will direct Shaw's Pygmalion for the 2014 season. His other credits include the world premiere of Ghost Light, which he co-created and developed with playwright Tony Taccone for Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Berkeley Rep. In addition, he directed Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park for American Conservatory Theater prior to its winning the Pulitzer Prize. For Cal Shakes, Moscone has directed the world-premiere adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven by Octavio Solis (recipient of the inaugural NEA New Play Development Award), The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Candida, Twelfth Night, Happy Days, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, and The Seagull. He is the first recipient of the Zelda Fichandler Award, given by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation for "transforming the American theatre through his unique and creative work." His regional credits include productions at Intersection for the Arts, the Huntington Theatre Company, Alley Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Goodspeed Musicals, Dallas Theater Center, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Intiman Theatre, and Magic Theatre, among others. Moscone currently serves as a board member of Theatre Communications Group.
Tribes features an ensemble of six accomplished actors, many of whom are making their Berkeley Rep debut:
· Anita Carey (Beth) played Gower in last season's Pericles, Prince of Tyre, directed by Mark Wing-Davey. She is known in the U.K. for her substantial television career, most recently for her portrayal of Vivienne March in the BBC series Doctors, for which she won Best Dramatic Performance at the 2009 U.K. Soap Awards. Her theatre credits (aside from Pericles) include The Daughter-in-Law at the New Vic, Gong Donkeys at the Bush Theatre, Star-Gazy Pie and Sauerkraut and Other Worlds at the Royal Court Theatre, The Importance of Being Earnest at the Watermill Theatre, Heart of a Dog at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Richard III for Northern Broadsides, Shirley Valentine at the Swan Theatre in Worcester, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at Nottingham Playhouse.
· James Caverly (Billy) appeared in Tribes at the SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston and the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. He has been involved with the National Theatre of the Deaf for two years, appearing in Journey of Identity, Stories in My Pocket Too, The W-5s: Stories Behind, and A Child's Christmas in Wales. In Washington, D.C., he appeared in Faction of Fools' Tales of Courage and Poultry as well as Tales of Honor and Anchovies. At Gallaudet University, his alma mater, he performed in L'Abbe de L'Eppe, UnContented Love, Spoon River Anthology, Urinetown, and Agamemnon; his direction of Noises Off received recognition from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Region II in 2011.
· Dan Clegg (Daniel) is making his debut at Berkeley Rep. His Bay Area credits include Major Barbara and A Christmas Carol (2010) at American Conservatory Theater; Lady Windermere's Fan, Romeo & Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Verona Project at California Shakespeare Theater; Blue/Orange at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre; and a number of productions with ACT's MFA program. Before moving to the Bay Area, Clegg lived in Montreal where he performed in shows at Théâtre Olympia, the Rialto Theatre, and Players' Theatre including Equus, The Merchant of Venice, The Rocky Horror Show, and The Woman in Black.
· Nell Geisslinger (Sylvia) most recently served as the associate director on a world-premiere adaptation of The Cocoanuts, which will run at Oregon Shakespeare Festival through the beginning of November. In 10 seasons at OSF some of her favorite roles have included Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, Nina in Seagull, Louison in The Imaginary Invalid, Doll Tearsheet in Henry IV Part II, and many others. In 2012 she was a proud participant in and contributing writer to the Black Swan Lab for New Work at OSF. Regionally, Geisslinger has appeared at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Boston Court Theatre, and with the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company. Her film and TV credits include Chloe and Keith's Wedding and The Witch of Portobello. She will appear this summer in Twelfth Night at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, directed by David Ivers.
· Elizabeth Morton (Ruth) is making her Berkeley Rep debut. She last performed on stage as the narrator (grown-up Scout) in To Kill a Mockingbird at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont. Other recent credits include the Broadway production of Death of a Salesman, Shaw's Candida at Two River Theater Company, episodes of Louie and 666 Park Avenue, and the audio book narration of Paul Rudnick's novel Gorgeous. Morton is a graduate of the University of Evansville and a member of the Workshop Company at the Actors Center.
· Paul Whitworth (Christopher) began his professional career at the Royal Shakespeare Company (1976-1982). In 1984, he joined Shakespeare Santa Cruz, where he produced, directed, or acted in 65 productions, serving as artistic director from 1996 to 2007. His other Bay Area credits include leading roles in Night and Day at American Conservatory Theater, Blue/Orange at Aurora Theatre, Shining City at San Francisco Playhouse, Krapp's Last Tape and One for the Road at Jewel Theatre, and The Pitmen Painters at TheatreWorks. Whitworth's directing credits include the world premiere of The Rape of Tamar (Lyric Hammersmith, London); Family Butchers and Triptych (Magic Theatre); and Arms and the Man, Engaged, and the premieres of Cinderella, Gretel and Hansel, The Princess and the Pea, and Sleeping Beauty (Shakespeare Santa Cruz).
The creative team for Tribes includes Todd Rosenthal (scenic designer), Meg Neville (costume designer), Christopher Akerlind (lighting designer), Jake Rodriguez (sound designer), and Joan Osato (video designer). The stage manager for the production of Tribes is Karen Szpaller. Tribes is made possible by lead producer Helen and John Meyer and executive producer Marjorie Randolph, and by production co-sponsor Bank of the West.
The 2013-14 season is supported by BART and Wells Fargo, who have generously renewed their commitment as Berkeley Rep's official season sponsors. Berkeley Rep is also proud to have the San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate as a second-year season sponsor and the Strauch Kulhanjian Family on board as season producer.
This season, Berkeley Rep has partnered with the Theatre Development Fund to offer 10 open-captioned performances. This state-of-the-art technology will allow Berkeley Rep to open its doors to a wider community by making performances accessible to patrons with hearing loss. Open-captioned performance for Tribes will take place Thursday, May 8 at 8 PM; Friday, May 9 at 8 PM; and Sunday, May 11 at 2 PM. Berkeley Rep is proud to offer two performances of Tribes that feature a team of American Sign Language-interpreted performances on Saturday, May 3 at 8 PM and Saturday, May 10 at 2 PM. For more information or to reserve seats, call 510 647-2949, Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 7 PM.