Extended: Tribes now plays until May 18!

Tribes Tribes Tribes

Tribes

By Nina Raine
Directed by Jonathan Moscone
Limited Season · Thrust Stage
April 11–May 18, 2014

Running time: 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission

When three smart siblings move back home with their opinionated parents, the cacophony of their family hits a new high—even for Billy who’s deaf. Nina Raine’s profound and powerful new play became a hit in London and New York, now renowned director Jonathan Moscone brings it to Berkeley Rep. To fall in love or find a job, to forge an identity apart from your family, to fulfill that longing for somewhere to belong…is it as simple as following the signs? In Tribes, a deaf man learns to find his way in a world where everyone needs to be heard.

Two tobacco- and nicotine-free herbal cigarettes will be smoked during Act 2 of Tribes. Patrons with concerns may watch Act 2 on a video screen in the bar. Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. We don’t offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have any concerns about content, please contact the box office.


Production co-sponsor

Bank of the West

Season sponsors

BARTSan Francisco Chronicle / SFGate.comWells Fargo

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Tribes calendar

Open captioningPartial support for open captioning provided by Theatre Development Fund

ASL interpretation

ASL interpretation

We are proud to offer three performances of Tribes that feature a team of ASL interpreters. Purchase tickets online using the links below, or call 510 647–2949, Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 7pm.

Signed performances of Tribes are scheduled for:

ASL Consultant
Anthony Natale

ASL Performance Sign Master
Jac Cook

ASL Performance Interpreters
Sherry Hicks
Kendra Keller
Michael Velez

Audience Development Consultant
Shira Grabelsky

Open captioning

Open captioning

We offer open captioning for one or more performances of each play, viewable from at least 25 seats. Open captioning is state-of-the-art technology that displays text of an actor’s speech at the same time the actor is speaking. Audience members don’t need to have any special equipment to see the displayed text. Purchase tickets online using the links below, or call 510 647–2949, Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 7pm.

Dates for open-captioned performances of Tribes:

Partial support for open captioning provided by Theatre Development Fund.

Creative team

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Nina Raine · Playwright

After graduating from Oxford, Nina began her career as a trainee director at the Royal Court Theatre. She dramaturged and directed the hard-hitting verbatim play Unprotected at the Liverpool Everyman, for which she won both the Theatrical Management Association’s 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 Nina’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. Nina’s second play, Tiger Country, was shortlisted for the Sphinx Theatre Brave New Roles Award, and is under commission to the Royal Court Theatre. 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.

Jonathan Moscone · Director

Jonathan Moscone is in his 15th 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. For Cal Shakes, Jonathan has directed the world premiere of John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven by Octavio Solis, 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 Intersection for the Arts, the Huntington Theatre, Alley Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Goodspeed Musicals, Dallas Theater Center, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Intiman Theatre, and Magic Theatre, among others. Jonathan currently serves as a board member of Theatre Communications Group.

Todd Rosenthal · Scenic Design

Todd previously designed Ghost Light for Berkeley Rep. His Broadway credits include August: Osage County (Tony Award), The Motherfucker with the Hat (Tony nomination), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Tony Award for Best Revival), and Of Mice and Men, which opens in April. Off Broadway, he designed for the premiere of Red Light Winter at the Barrow Street Theatre and Domesticated at Lincoln Center Theater. Todd was the set designer for six years for the Big Apple Circus. His international credits include August: Osage County (National Theatre in London and Sydney Theatre in Australia) and The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Theatre Royal in Ireland. Todd designed 33 productions for Steppenwolf Theatre and is an artistic partner at the Goodman Theatre. He also designed for the Guthrie Theater, the Alliance Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, the Alley Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and many others. Todd was lead designer for Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition and the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes. He received many other accolades, including the Laurence Olivier Award, the Helen Hayes Award, Ovation Award, the Back Stage Garland Award, the Joseph Jefferson Award, and the Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration. Todd is an associate professor at Northwestern University and a graduate of Yale School of Drama.

Meg Neville · Costume Design

Meg’s Berkeley Rep credits include Closer; Dinner with Friends; Eurydice (also at Yale Repertory Theatre and Second Stage); The Life of Galileo; Ghost Light (also at Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Ghosts; In the Wake (also at the Kirk Douglas Theatre); Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Suddenly Last Summer; TRAGEDY: a tragedy; and Yellowjackets. She also recently designed The Cocoanuts and The Taming of the Shrew at OSF, Lady Windermere’s Fan at California Shakespeare Theater, and Krispy Kritters in the Scarlet Night at Cutting Ball Theater. As an associate artist for Cal Shakes she designed Pastures of Heaven, An Ideal Husband, The Tempest, King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Happy Days, The Winter’s Tale, All’s Well That Ends Well, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Twelfth Night (Bay Area Critics Circle Award). Meg has worked in the Bay Area at Marin Theatre Company, American Conservatory Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Joe Goode Performance Group, San Francisco Opera Center, and the Magic Theatre. Her regional and New York venues include Brooklyn Academy of Music (Orfeo with Chicago Opera Theater), the Atlantic Theater Company, New York Stage and Film, Center Stage, Hartford Stage, South Coast Repertory, Portland Stage Company, and Dallas Theater Center. Meg is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and resides in San Francisco with her husband and three children.

Christopher Akerlind · Lighting Design

Christopher has created the lighting for over 600 theatre, opera, and dance productions worldwide. He returns to Berkeley Rep where he designed Ghost Light, Antony and Cleopatra, The Life of Galileo, and The Triumph of Love. His Broadway credits include Rocky, The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (Tony nomination), 110 in the Shade (Tony nomination), Awake and Sing! (Tony nomination), The Light in the Piazza (Tony, Outer Critics, and Drama Desk Awards), Seven Guitars (Tony nomination), Superior Donuts, and Top Girls. His recent work includes Martha Clarke’s new piece Cheri for Signature Theatre, The Threepenny Opera for Atlantic Theater Company, the world premiere of Dolores Claiborne for San Francisco Opera, and Sleeping Beauty Wakes for La Jolla Playhouse and McCarter Theatre Center. Christopher is the recipient of an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence and the Michael Merritt Award, and has received nominations for many other awards.

Jake Rodriguez · Sound Design

Jake is a sound designer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His regional credits include the world premieres of Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright, Girlfriend, and Passing Strange at Berkeley Rep; world premieres of Brownsville Song and The Christians at Actors Theatre of Louisville; Underneath the Lintel and Scorched at American Conservatory Theater; Hamlet (2012) at California Shakespeare Theater; world premieres of Bruja, Annapurna, and Oedipus el Rey at Magic Theatre; Eurydice at Milwaukee Repertory Theater; The People’s Temple at Guthrie Theater; and Clementine in the Lower 9 at TheatreWorks. He has designed off Broadway at the Pershing Square Signature Center for Eve Ensler’s Emotional Creature. Jake is the recipient of a 2004 Princess Grace Award.

Joan Osato · Video Design

Joan has played a pivotal role in local and national theatre for over a decade and has been an indispensable part of Youth Speaks/The Living Word Project since 2001. She has brought her multiplicity of producing and design talents to LWP repertory works such as The Break/s, Word Becomes Flesh, Scourge, Tree City Legends, and Mirrors in Every Corner, and plays for Campo Santo including The River by Richard Montoya and Alleluia by Luis Alfaro, directed by Jonathan Moscone. In 2014 she is producing Chasing Mehserle by Chinaka Hodge, Spiritrials by Dahlak Brathwaite—both directed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph—and Nogales by Richard Montoya and Sean San José. Her current projects include a statewide community engagement project called Califas (recipient of the Rockefeller MAP Fund), Reflections of Healing with muralist Brett Cook, and Life is Living, a project in neglected parks in urban centers around the country.

Julie McCormick · Dramaturg

Julie is the literary associate at Berkeley Rep, and has previously served as a dramaturg on Red and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. She has also worked with various projects at The Ground Floor Summer Residency Lab. In addition to her work at Berkeley Rep, Julie occasionally freelances at other theatres in the Bay Area, including the world-premiere productions of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s 410[Gone] and Amelia Roper’s She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange at Crowded Fire Theater. Julie was the 2011–12 Peter F. Sloss Literary/Dramaturgy Fellow at Berkeley Rep, and holds a BA from Carleton College.

Amy Potozkin, CSA · Casting Director

A native New Yorker, Amy moved west in 1990 when she was hired to work for Berkeley Rep. Through the years she has also had the pleasure of casting projects for ACT (Seattle), Arizona Theatre Company, Aurora Theatre Company, B Street Theatre, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Marin Theatre Company, the Marsh, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Social Impact Productions Inc., and Traveling Jewish Theatre. Amy cast roles for various indie films: Conceiving Ada, starring Tilda Swinton; Haiku Tunnel and the upcoming Love and Taxes both by Josh Kornbluth; and the upcoming feature film Beyond Redemption by Britta Sjogren. Amy received her MFA from Brandeis University, where she was also an artist in residence. She has been a coach to hundreds of actors, teaches acting at Mills College, and leads workshops at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre and numerous other venues in the Bay Area. Amy is a member of CSA, the Casting Society of America.

Alaine Alldaffer, CSA · Casting Director

Alaine is the casting director for Playwrights Horizons and works with Lisa Donadio, who is the associate casting director. Credits include Clybourne Park and Grey Gardens (Broadway and Playwrights Horizons), Circle Mirror Transformation (Artios Award), and Present Laughter (Artios Award) with Victor Garber for the Huntington Theatre Company and Roundabout Theatre Company. TV credits include The Knights of Prosperity (ABC), and associate credits include Ed (NBC) and Monk (USA). Alaine has cast for Women’s Project Theater, Long Wharf Theatre, Soho Rep, the Alley Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and Arena Stage, as well as for Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Anthony Natale · ASL Consultant

Anthony is an ASL consultant and a professional development specialist who presents workshops and trains interpreters. He has worked closely with Deaf West productions acting, translating, and consulting on Big River, Sleepy Beauty Wakes, and Pippin. His other theatre credits include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, West Side Story, The Red Shoes, The Greatest Show on Earth, Godspell, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, and Alice in Wonderland. Anthony is known to moviegoers as Cole in Mr. Holland’s Opus and the guy in the elevator during the pivotal scene in Jerry Maguire, signing “You complete me.” He was also seen in Children of a Lesser God, City of Angels, Two Shades of Blue, and Date Movie. Anthony’s television credits include Switched at Birth (also the ASL dialogue coach), CSI, Any Day Now, Once and Again, 7th Heaven, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, His Bodyguard, Beauty and the Beast, Pacific Blue, and Rude Awakening. He was honored to work with Michael Jackson’s London tour teaching ASL to his dancers. Anthony is also the star of How to Talk to a Person Who Can’t Hear, the first video made to teach sign language to the general public, which has garnered awards from the U.S. International Film & Video Festival and a Young Artist Award. Anthony attended California State University, Northridge and has a BA in film production and minor in theatre arts.

Craig Fogel · ASL Interpreter

Craig is a professional actor and a nationally certified ASL-English interpreter. As an interpreter, Craig specializes in theatre, specifically in collaborations between Deaf and hearing artists. He has the privilege of working with some of New York’s most talented Deaf performers and theatre artists in auditions, rehearsal rooms, on sets, and beyond. He also interprets plays and musicals for audiences in New York City and at regional theatres. As an actor, his work has been seen on stage—both in New York and regionally—and television. A proud alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (CAP21, Playwrights Horizons), Craig feels fortunate to count performances with the National Theatre of the Deaf and other Deaf-hearing collaborations like this production among his extensive credits in plays, musicals, and television work.

Karen Szpaller · Stage Manager

Karen is thrilled to be back for her 11th season at Berkeley Rep. Her favorite past Berkeley Rep productions include The House that will not Stand, The Wild Bride, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Eurydice, Fêtes de la Nuit, Comedy on the Bridge/Brundibar, Compulsion, Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West, and Let Me Down Easy. Her favorites elsewhere include Anne Patterson’s art and theatrical installation Seeing the Voice: State of Grace and Anna Deavere Smith’s newest work, On Grace, both at Grace Cathedral; the national tour of Spamalot in San Francisco; A Christmas Carol (2006–13), Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, 1776, Stuck Elevator, Blackbird, Curse of the Starving Class, and The Tosca Project at American Conservatory Theater; Wild With Happy, Striking 12, and Wheelhouse at TheatreWorks; Ragtime and She Loves Me at Foothill Music Theatre; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at San Jose Repertory Theatre; Salomé at Aurora Theatre; and Urinetown: The Musical at San Jose Stage Company. Karen is the production coordinator at TheatreWorks.

Additional credits

Jac Cook · ASL Sign Master
Sherry Hicks · ASL Performance Interpreter
Kendra Keller · ASL Performance Interpreter
Michael Velez · ASL Performance Interpreter
Jacob Harvey · Assistant Director
Lynne Soffer · Dialect Coach

Cast

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Anita Carey · Beth

Anita CareyAnita is delighted to be returning to Berkeley Rep in Tribes, and to be working with Jonathan Moscone. She played Gower in last season’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre, directed by Mark Wing-Davey, her long-term partner with whom she also has two children. Anita and Mark live in New York. She is known in the UK 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 UK Soap Awards. Her favorite theatre credits (aside from Pericles) include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at Nottingham Playhouse, Shirley Valentine at the Swan Theatre in Worcester, Richard III for Northern Broadsides, The Daughter-in-Law at the New Vic, Heart of a Dog at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Star-Gazy Pie and Sauerkraut and Other Worlds at the Royal Court Theatre, and Gong Donkeys at the Bush Theatre.

James Caverly · Billy

James CaverlyJames recently appeared in Tribes at the SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston and the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. 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, DC, 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 at Region II in 2011.

Dan Clegg · Daniel

Dan CleggDan 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, Dan 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. Dan is also the voice of Winston in The Winston Show, a new iPad app created by ToyTalk, a family entertainment company based in San Francisco.

Nell Geisslinger · Sylvia

Nell GeisslingerNell is making her Berkeley Rep debut. She most recently served as the associate director on a world-premiere adaptation of The Cocoanuts, which runs at the 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 she 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. Look for Nell this summer in Twelfth Night at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, directed by David Ivers.

Elizabeth Morton · Ruth

Elizabeth MortonElizabeth 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. Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Evansville and a member of the Actors Center Workshop Company.

Paul Whitworth · Christopher

Paul WhitworthPaul began his professional career at the Royal Shakespeare Company (1976–82). 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. Other recent leading roles include Galileo in The Life of Galileo at Asolo Repertory Theatre and Forrest in Hurricane (world premiere) by Nilo Cruz at the Ringling International Arts Festival. Paul’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 actors and stage managers are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

“In 2006, Nina Raine won both British ‘most promising playwright’ awards. With Tribes, she keeps the promise; it’s the best-written, best-plotted, deepest, most daring—and funniest—new play in recent years…It’s a paradox of sorts that a play about deafness should have such scintillating dialogue.”—Wall Street Journal

“Big, brilliant…smart, lively…Tribes forces us to hear with our eyes…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.”—New York Times

“Nina Raine’s moving screwball tragedy…intelligently explores language and disability…By the bittersweet end, Raine has shown us the many ways in which humans are deaf whether or not they can hear.”—Village Voice

“Wonderful…rich and rewarding…Raine’s capacious writing explores issues of communication, self-expression and individuation…There are moments in this play that I don’t think I will ever forget—scenes that tap the beauty that can live and resound in silence.”—Time Out New York

“Subtle and scintillating…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.”—The New Yorker

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Prologue: from the Artistic Director

I get interviewed fairly frequently. It has nothing to do with my fascinating personality but simply a function of my job. Why do you pick the plays you pick? What’s going on with Berkeley Rep? How would you define the work and what does it mean? That sort of thing. But frequently these conversations reflect back on my worldview and lead to the inevitable stumper: who are you, Tony Taccone? My shrink is always asking me the same thing. The answer is fantastically elusive and, in the case of my shrink, very expensive.

Maybe the best way to address the question is to ask: what tribe do I belong to? What tribe do I wish I belonged to and which one(s) have I rejected? That seems to provide a framework to understand the choices I’ve made. It not only tells the story of where I came from but where I am now and where I hope to be going. It’s a question we all share and carry throughout our entire lives, the primary way we inherit, create, and re-create our identities. And it’s the central question posed by tonight’s play. As seen through the provocative lens of a young man who is deaf, his loving if slightly crazed family, and his budding relationship with a woman who is losing her hearing, Tribes is ultimately about identity and belonging. About how we change and the cost of change. About never really knowing who we are because who we are is always changing.

But the great gift of the theatre is that it provides a miraculous window to look at our “selves” through the experience of other people. And more improbably, to feel ourselves through characters whose experience may be vastly different from our own. In the hands of talented artists, we move into an imagined landscape where we don’t know anyone but we recognize everyone. We don’t see ourselves but are suddenly in front of a mirror. We don’t share the same experience but we are surprisingly empathetic.

This is why we make theatre, and, I trust, is the reason so many of you keep coming back. So welcome. We’ve placed you in the large, sure hands of Jon Moscone and his wonderful tribe of creative cohorts. I’m certain they can help us sort out who we are and who we belong to. At least for the moment.

Sincerely,

Tony Taccone

Prologue: from the Managing Director

My nephew called me from Washington, DC last fall. He had just returned home from his neighborhood theatre, having seen a show that he just had to talk about. A few months later, my sister called from Chicago and did the same thing. They had both just seen Nina Raine’s new play Tribes. Of course they wanted to make sure that Berkeley Rep would produce our own version of the play. But what struck me about their calls was the way the play had gotten inside their heads. There was so much to talk about and so much to think about.

There are times when we’re thrilled to originate a play. For instance, it was such an honor and a pleasure to commission, develop, and then produce the world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s The House that will not Stand. After its closing performance here, we sent it off to our co-producing partner Yale Repertory Theatre, knowing that Marcus had learned so much about the play from the audiences here in Berkeley. When it gets to Yale, he’ll have a chance to make script changes informed by the responses of our audiences. We are proud to be part of its trajectory.

On the other hand, there is an entirely different pleasure in producing a play, like Tribes, that has already been produced a few times. Nina Raine has seen her play mounted in theatres on two continents now. And this year, theatres across America have included it in their seasons. Working on a play that is not in process is an entirely different kind of joy.

One of the special delights, though, of having a play on our stage that has been seen in London, New York City, Chicago, Washington, DC, and elsewhere is the satisfaction of knowing that we are creating an opportunity for a dialogue that is based not on the limits of geography but on a shared experience across time and space. While you will see Jon Moscone’s take on Tribes, my nephew saw the same play interpreted by another director and other actors. We will argue with each other about the play and about the choices made in each production. But, most importantly, we will be sharing. Every year, a few plays sweep across the country and create—in the spirit of today’s book clubs—a kind of national theatre club. If you have relatives around the country who have seen Tribes, maybe you ought to call them tomorrow and see what they thought.

All this is a way of saying that the stories we tell on our stages are meant to be shared. When you ride home on BART following this performance and hear other people discussing the play, or when we tell a story here that shows up on a stage in Louisville, or when Nina Raine writes a play in London that ends up in Berkeley, we are engaged in a kind of community-making that is based in the power of a good story.

I hope you’ve received your subscription forms for next season already. Tony has lined up a pretty wonderful selection of stories told by an awesome assembly of artists. I hope you’ll call, go online, or write back and subscribe so that you can share in yet another season of great plays.

Warmly,

Susan Medak

Navigating the signs

An interview with Anthony Natale

By Karen McKevitt

Anthony Natale is the ASL consultant for Berkeley Rep’s production of Tribes. He has worked as an actor, translator, and consultant on many Deaf West shows and has been seen on the big screen as Cole in Mr. Holland’s Opus and in Jerry Maguire. A couple of weeks before rehearsals began, we conducted a phone interview using Video Relay Service.

What does an ASL consultant do?

In general, an ASL consultant is someone who has extensive experience in ASL translating, transliterating, interpreting, and evaluation skills. For instance, as an ASL consultant in theatre, I review the scripts and visualize the dramatic intent and feeling, and then find places and opportunities where sign language could be used effectively. Some situations could call for more gesture or other ASL-specific techniques in conveying the message.

An ASL consultant also functions as a language and cultural artist, working closely with the director on views associated with Deaf culture. It would of course be my personal perspective, and an overall approach—not just onstage, but offstage as well. This could include consulting with publicity and marketing to ensure the Deaf culture perspective is respected.

That’s how I view my role as an ASL consultant. I have done many exciting projects in the past including Big River, one of my favorites, a mainstream play with deaf and hearing actors that started in Los Angeles, where I also had the pleasure of acting in it.

Specifically, what is your role in Berkeley Rep’s production of Tribes?

A good example of the specific role would be sitting next to director Jonathan Moscone and providing input and answering questions he has about sign language and Deaf culture. If I see something that is happening right now in the Deaf community, I would share that with Jon for him to determine if it fits within his intent. I’ll also work closely with the two actors playing Sylvia and Billy, who of course use sign language.

I’m eager to see what it will be like to work with Nell Geisslinger, the actor playing Sylvia, when we start rehearsals in three weeks. I am sure we can gel quickly and that way she can really take on this role and do great. I was very excited when I heard she immersed herself in sign language training. I know she has a great desire to learn, and that along with her talent could be a winning combination. I will be working one-on-one with her on ASL, sitting down to explore the translation opportunities and even draw signs out of her based on her character, which will ultimately fine-tune sign choices that work best for her. By helping her form character by teaching her about Deaf culture, and providing that focus to Billy and Sylvia alike, I am confident it will get them to really “feel” sign language.

I am also looking forward to working with James Caverly. He has played the part before in other theatres, and I am excited for him to share his experiences with me. From that point of view we would start going through specific lines, give background and expanding perspectives of the role as a deaf person, and how they choose the sign. The signs vary so greatly; they have different levels. There are many nuances and hand shapes that the characters can use. You can almost always tell if someone is a lifelong user by these different nuances, even though you may not know sign language.

It’s also an interesting experience working with deaf actors like James who have the language and can sign—it’s their first language. But the character of Billy is opposite. Billy doesn’t know sign language. He’s never met a deaf person, but then he meets Sylvia and is attracted to her. The deaf actor already has the language, but will have to unlearn the language. That’s where I’ll be watching to make sure that the level of sign language is not so advanced. That’s part of my responsibility: to be sure that comes out in the play and that it stays at that appropriate level.

Nina Raine is a British playwright. British Sign Language differs from American Sign Language. How is that navigated?

There are many different versions of Tribes. The older version of the script that started in England had Sylvia teaching Billy how to use BSL (British Sign Language). BSL is quite different from ASL. When American theatres use ASL, there is a dramaturgical disconnect between actors speaking British accents and actors signing ASL.

How are the two perceived differently when it comes to the stage?

So, I question myself how that will work with signers using ASL while the hearing actors are using British accents. But I think it’s best to match what the audience can relate to. I’ve seen five different productions of Tribes in the United States, and they’ve all used ASL. That’s the precedent. We try to make the play more accessible to a deaf audience.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maybe I can share my previous experience in show business. Since I first started, I’ve seen huge changes. People now are really accepting of the Deaf community and Deaf language, and ASL is growing quickly and faster than I’ve ever seen in the past. I ask myself, “How can it happen now when it didn’t happen like that before?” Maybe it’s because we’ve started to accept it. Society is becoming more supportive of various peoples, and these communities are very supportive of each other; they are sort of unified. I’m excited to see more and more shows showcasing black actors and other minorities. We’re seeing more and more of that in the deaf show Switched at Birth. I’m happy to see today that people in the industry are more open-minded and inclusive of deaf actors, but at the same time they’re teaching and entertaining people. That’s really nice to see.

Nina Raine: Why I wrote Tribes

I first had the idea of writing Tribes when I watched a documentary about a deaf couple. The woman was pregnant. They wanted their baby to be deaf.

I was struck by the thought that this was actually what many people feel, deaf or otherwise. Parents take great pleasure in witnessing the qualities they have managed to pass on to their children. Not only a set of genes. A set of values, beliefs. Even a particular language. The family is a tribe: an infighting tribe but intensely loyal.

Once I started looking around, tribes were everywhere. I went to New York and was fascinated by the orthodox Jews in Williamsburg, who all wear a sort of uniform. They were like an enormous extended family.

And just like some religions can seem completely mad to non-believers, so the rituals and hierarchies of a family can seem nonsensical to an outsider.

I learnt some sign language. I found it immensely tiring. Sign demands that you heighten your facial expressions—‘like’—you stroke your neck downwards and smile beatifically, ‘don’t like’ you stroke your neck upwards and make a face almost as if you are throwing up. I felt like I was being made to assume a personality that didn’t fit me. I realised how much we express our personality through the way we speak. I didn’t like having to change my personality. And sign has a different grammar. I felt stupid, slow, uncomprehending. Was this what it might be like to be a deaf person trying to follow a rapid spoken conversation? But I was also envious. I loved the way sign looked when used by those fluent in it. It could be beautiful. Wouldn’t it be great to be a ‘virtuoso’ in sign? They must exist, like poets or politicians in the hearing world…

Finally, I thought about my own family. Full of its own eccentricities, rules, in-jokes and punishments. What if someone in my (hearing, garrulous) family had been born deaf?

All these things went into the play, which took a very long time to write. All I knew was that at the beginning we would be plunged into a family dinner. The first scene was easy to write. I wrote it with no idea of the characters’ names, or of how many siblings there were. But oddly, it is one of the scenes that has hardly changed during the writing of the play. It sat there for a very long time. And then, slowly, I wrote the rest. The crazy family was born fully formed. I just had to work out what happened to them.

Reprinted with permission from The Royal Court Theatre, London.

Part of your tribe

By Aaron Carter
Edited By Jenni Page-White

Ahead of the opening of her play at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, Tribes scribe Nina Raine found the time to chat with the Director of New Play Development Aaron Carter about language, culture, and community before being whisked away to see the play performed in Croatia.

Aaron Carter: Is the Zagreb production of Tribes being performed in English or…

Nina Raine: No, they’re performing in Croatian.

Do you speak any other languages?

I speak a little bit of Italian, French, and German—just enough to not feel freaked out when you’re in that country. I’ve seen Tribes in other languages before, like in Budapest, and you sort of realize how many swear words there are when you hear it in another language—like: “Oh God, there’s that weird-sounding word again!”

There are some fascinating difficulties they ran into when translating Tribes into Croatian. There’s a moment at the end of the play in which the projected surtitle is simultaneously about two different events. But that kind of ambiguous reference is not possible in Croatian, so they had to cut it.

And so much of Tribes is about the very nature of language—it’s interesting to think about how different translations might affect the way the play is received.

Well, even sign language is different in different countries. American sign is quite different than British sign, even though we share the same language. The bit in the play where Sylvia signs the poem—I was really enamored by the way they did it in London, which was quite poetic, but when I saw it in New York, it wasn’t quite the same. And the woman who was doing the sign said, “Oh, we don’t have to do it this way—that was just my interpretation.” And so, you can say a thought in several different ways in sign just like you can in spoken word.

And the other thing that happens with translation: sometimes a joke won’t work in a different language. You realize that it’s not funny without the sound of the words being funny.

There’s a saying—variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and Winston Churchill—that Great Britain and the United States are divided by a common language. Are you struck by any notable differences between the English language productions in London and New York?

Something that is really exhilarating for an English person is that American actors are more willing to go further emotionally. English actors can get there as well—I’m really generalizing—but the production in New York was a bit snottier and scream-ier than the one in London. They really hit the emotional peaks. Comparing David Cromer’s production in New York and Roger Michell’s in London—David went very naturalistic, he immersed the audience in the clutter of that family. And Roger took away everything except for a table and chairs and a chestnut tree in the garden that reminds you of the family tree—it was all very clean and symbolic. David’s was a bit more chaotic, more emotionally high-octane. But I don’t think that either way was like, the one way to do it. They were just extremely different.

It’s tempting to imagine parallels between your family and the family featured in Tribes because your father is poet Craig Raine and your brother Moses is also a playwright. Was the play inspired by your family in any way?

Well, the initial nugget came from a documentary I saw about a deaf couple that came from really different families. The man had never learned sign and he was tremendously relieved to find the Deaf community; she was well-ensconced in the Deaf community and all her family signed. And she was pregnant and they wanted the child to be born deaf. And I thought that was really interesting, because there’s a small selfish part of us that wants to pass on our genes and our special qualities to our children. You want the child to be part of your tribe. For them, that meant their child being deaf. So that got me thinking. And then I met lots of deaf people, and I would scribble down things that they said, and I met someone who was going deaf, and I scribbled more, and slowly these characters started to take shape. And I do have a very noisy, combative, and sort of funny family myself, so they were you know, the place where I put these deaf characters.

What can you tell me about what you’re working on now?

Not much really, because it’s not very formed. You sort of write what you know, so all the characters are in their 30s and having babies. I haven’t had any children yet, but it’s what all my friends are doing so it’s all around me. It’s about that and also the legal system…that’s as far as I’ve got, really!

Yeah, my friends and I are in the “kids are about to start kindergarten” phase. So in a certain way, I feel like I belong to a tribe of young parents. Do you feel like you belong to any particular tribes?

A tribe of writers, I suppose? Actually, you know, these sort of intense friendships that I had when I was younger are now finding their way back into my life. And even though we haven’t spoken in years, our lives have sort of turned out similarly, which is really interesting to me. I wonder, maybe there was something we saw in each other when we were young, and we’re still like that—we’re still that same person? I wonder if that’s a sort of tribe. For instance, I spent a year out in Munich when I was 18, and I met this girl and we got on really well and were pen pals for a bit afterwards. She wrote me a letter about a month or so ago, and I hadn’t heard from her in 17 years. So I asked her, “Do you have any children?” And she said no, and I thought that’s so interesting! Because the majority of people I’m surrounded by now do have children, but not my old, old friends. It’s curious.

There’s a play in there somewhere! In the play, Sylvia describes the Deaf community as a kind of protective tribe. What has the reaction been from the Deaf community to the play?

By and large, the deaf people I’ve met have been thrilled that someone was interested in telling a bit of their story. But of course, the play is quite critical of the Deaf community at some moments. Some of the people who have been critical of the Deaf community to me, they’ve said “No, no, I can’t go on the record as having said that.” It’s tricky.

But, so: positive memory! We did two press nights for the London production—one for the Deaf press and one for the hearing press. And I was so nervous on the night of the Deaf press. I sat in the back row and watched, and in the intermission, they were all just talking away in sign. And at the end of the play, they all clapped in the deaf way—which is to wave your hands—and Jacob Casselden, who played Billy, looked out and saw them all and waved his hands back at them and it was really moving. Because that was his tribe, and they were applauding him.

Reprinted with permission of Steppenwolf Theatre.

A window into the Deaf world

By Julie McCormick

What does it mean to be Deaf? Held to be a limiting disability by some and a rich source of cultural pride for others, there is an important distinction to make between “deaf” and “Deaf.” The word “deaf” with a lowercase “d” refers to the inability to hear, whereas “Deaf” with an uppercase “D” is used to refer to Deaf culture and the Deaf community. There are varying degrees of hearing loss, and many different causes. Deafness ranges along a spectrum, from mild (an ability to hear most speech, but soft sounds only with difficulty or not at all) to profound (an inability to hear any speech and nothing but the loudest sounds). Hearing loss occurs for a variety of reasons and at any stage in life. Though difficult to measure these sorts of things, it is estimated that nearly one in six Americans has some form of hearing loss, and that three out of every 1,000 children are born deaf.

Degree of hearing loss, however, does not directly correspond to degree of “Deafness.” A profoundly deaf individual may have no ties to the Deaf community, whereas someone who has some hearing but was raised by Deaf parents using sign may be considered Deaf. This is because the Deaf community is not an artificial collection of people based on a physical trait, but rather is its own organic and distinct culture, replete with its own native language, institutions, hierarchy, customs, and networks.

Awareness and acceptance of Deaf people have been extremely variable throughout history. In Ancient Greece, they were deemed ineducable; in Dark Ages Christianity, their deafness was thought to be a punishment for their parents’ sins. There were a few communities with a high incidence of deafness—Martha’s Vineyard, for example, had a population in the 18th and 19th centuries that was up to 25 percent deaf, and there is a large Deaf population in Rochester, New York as well. For others, however—the victim of an illness or a deaf child born to hearing parents—the world could be very lonely indeed.

Some argue that the Deaf community did not fully get its start until the beginning of deaf education and the standardization of a gestural form of communication: sign language. The Abbé Charles Michel De L’Épée is credited with creating the first free school for the deaf in France in 1760. He also compiled the gestural signs he learned from the deaf into a standardized system. Many of the signs from his system are still used today in LSF (French Sign Language) and its immediate descendant, ASL (American Sign Language). He founded a number of schools and a shelter in Paris and other parts of France, as well as a teaching program, which allowed others from around the world to learn and teach this manual language. In the early 1800s, American Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet traveled to France to learn more about deaf education from L’Épée’s successor, and met instructor Laurent Clerc. Together, Gallaudet and Clerc returned to the United States and founded the first American School for the Deaf (ASD) in 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut. ASD is still extant today, teaching students from elementary school through high school. Other sign-based residential schools for the deaf began appearing in the United States, and in 1864, Gallaudet University, the first and only accredited university for the deaf, opened its doors. Its first president was Edward Miner Gallaudet, the son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.

At the same time, oral education for the deaf was gaining momentum in Western Europe. Educators like Samuel Heinicke (creator of the “German Method” of learning speech) taught their students to lip read and to speak by having them feel the movement of a speaking throat with their hands. At a deaf education convention in Milan in 1880, it was decided that oral language education, and not manual signed language, was the best way to teach the Deaf and integrate them into the hearing world.

Though this remained a popular philosophy for nearly 100 years, many lamented this turn of events as a tragic loss of language and culture that had the potential to alienate the deaf rather than connecting them to a larger community. The residential schools for the deaf that were scattered across the United States had become cultural hotspots, places where sign, stories, and history could be transmitted from one generation to the next. For individuals who had grown up alone, in a totally hearing community, this was a godsend. Many graduates of these programs ended up staying in the area, either as teachers themselves at the school, or simply enjoying the presence of so many other deaf people. Oral-only education disrupted this lineage and fragmented a community which depended on residential schools, social clubs, and organizations.

The methods used by oral education ranged from ineffective to cruel, and in 1964, Congress declared oral deaf education to be a “dismal failure.” It was replaced in the early ‘60s by Total Communication, a theory that combined both manual and oral education. Though there are a number of methods for putting these two modes together, the most common practice is to speak and sign at the same time. In 1975, a law was passed which required schools to have the resources to support deaf students, including access to interpreters and special instruction outside of the classroom. As a result, many deaf students were mainstreamed into public schools. Some saw this as a means for greater integration and access; others were concerned that it would continue to divide Deaf children from their heritage.

There are many different kinds of standard sign that are used around the world. ASL is used in the United States and parts of Canada. It does not derive from spoken English—ASL is a distinct language with its own grammatical structures, syntax, and vocabulary. For example, in spoken English, you might say, “I’m going to the store.” Sentence structure tends to follow a subject, verb, object pattern. In ASL, however, that sentence would be signed as “I” “GO” “STORE” “NOW.”

In order to bridge the gap between ASL and spoken English, many began promoting the use of Manually Coded English (MCE) systems in deaf education and interpretation. The most commonly used MCE system is Signed Exact English (SEE), which is based on spoken English’s structure and grammar. It borrowed many signs and systems from ASL, but generated others and uses invented signs to express modifiers like -ly, -ed, and -ing; these are expressed in ASL by changing facial expression, the speed and intensity of the sign, or repeating a sign multiple times. Signs in ASL that are close in content often share similar hand shapes. Similar signs in SEE, on the other hand, are guided by spoken homonyms. For example, the SEE sign for the verb “to park” has the same hand shape as the place “a park.”

Proponents of SEE argue that it helps sign users to become more comfortable with spoken English; critics point out that it is not as efficient as ASL and can significantly delay communication times, and that it creates a gap between the language that many Deaf (and hearing) children of Deaf parents use at home and the one they may use at school. Most significantly, perhaps, MCE uses a fundamentally different logic based on hearing, whereas ASL and other natural signed languages are guided by visual communication. For this reason, ASL is the language recommended by the National Association of the Deaf as “the optimal tool for deaf children and adults.”

Over the centuries, various technological innovations have made it easier for members of the Deaf community to communicate with each other and to navigate the hearing world, from old-fashioned ear trumpets to hearing aids, to table-top amplifiers, teletypewriters, assisted listening devices, closed-captioned televisions, and most recently and controversially, cochlear implants. Yet as it was poignantly expressed in Sound and Fury, a 1999 documentary film about a Deaf and hearing family’s debate over giving their children cochlear implants, these benefits have the potential to alienate as much as they do to connect.

In this hierarchical, fiercely proud, and occasionally insular community, the lines demarking who belongs and who does not are subtly drawn. Hearing children born of Deaf parents can find themselves in a challenging liminal space—though their first language may be sign (there are many stories of hearing children having to go to speech therapy when they start school, because they are used to communicating solely in sign with their families and family friends) and they have had access to the Deaf world since birth, they can hear, whereas their parents cannot. Similarly, Deaf children born of hearing parents (according to the National Association of the Deaf, this happens 90 percent of the time) may struggle to communicate with and be understood by their families, perhaps not gaining significant access to language until school. Without sign, access to the Deaf world is minimal. Without hearing (even with aids or implants and oral education), it can be difficult to fully integrate with the hearing world. Though there are as many exceptions as there are people, at the heart of it all is the challenge of balancing two worlds that must pay careful attention to fully understand one another.

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Michael Leibert Artistic Director Tony Taccone introduces Tribes.

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Additional resources

Our literary department has curated this list of resources about Deaf culture and community.

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Deaf culture and community

Cultural and Language Diversity and the Deaf Experience edited by Ila Parasnis

  • This book is described as a comprehensive analysis of the Deaf as a culturally and linguistically distinct minority group within American society. The book features three sections, including research on bilingualism and biculturalism, the impact of cultural and language diversity on the deaf experience, and firsthand accounts from Deaf community members.

“Understanding Deafness: Not Everyone Wants to Be ‘Fixed’”

  • This is a thought-provoking article from The Atlantic about the advanced but controversial technology available to the Deaf and hard of hearing—cochlear implants—and how the attitude of healing a “disability” is strongly opposed by the Deaf community.

No Walls of Stone: An Anthology of Literature by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers edited by Jill Jepson

  • This selection, featuring poems, short stories, essays, memoirs, and one dramatic text, both captures and interprets the experience of deafness in relation to a variety of subjects.

My Deaf Family

  • Offering a fascinating window into family communication dynamics, this reality show, produced by Marlee Matlin, follows the Firl family of Fremont, California, where teenager Jared is hearing, while both his parents and two of his siblings are deaf.

Through Deaf Eyes (DVD)

  • Filmed in association with Gallaudet University, this PBS documentary “explores almost 200 years of Deaf life in America and presents a broad range of perspectives on what it means to be deaf. The film is propelled by the stories of people, both eminent and ordinary, and sheds light on events that have shaped Deaf lives.”

Sign language and lip-reading

Is sign language the same the world over?

  • This short article responds to a frequently asked question on the University College London’s Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre’s website, featuring a British Sign Language-interpreted video.

American Sign Language (ASL)

  • This page provides a brief overview and a selection of links to ASL resources from Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts university in the world for deaf students, located in Washington, DC. One of the links leads to ASLpro.com, which features a dictionary that interprets English words and phrases into Sign.

Crown Prosecution Service lip-reading case

  • This real-life case concerns expert lip-reader Jessica Rees, whose credibility was thrown into question after her transcriptions were challenged at a UK court in 2005.

Free Speech pre- and post-show enrichment programs

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Repartee

Meet us in the Theatre an hour before the show on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an engrossing presentation about your subscription-season play. Hear about the playwright’s perspective, dive into the historical context, and discover why the script is relevant right now. Each 30-minute talk includes plenty of time for your questions.

Post-show docent-led discussions follow matinees.

Interested in becoming a docent? Click here for details. For more information about Berkeley Rep’s docent program, please email docent@berkeleyrep.org.

Our docents also offer talks off-site:

  • Tuesday, April 15 · 7pm—Orinda Library
  • Wednesday, April 16 · 2pm—Moraga Library
  • Tuesday, April 29 · 7pm—Lafayette Library

Post-show discussions

Stick around after select performances for lively Q&A sessions with our artists on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
  • Friday, April 25, 2014
  • Tuesday, April 29, 2014
  • Saturday, May 3, 2014

Last Call

Cap off your night with us after select evening performances throughout the season and sample wine, spirits, and other culinary delights from local vendors—all for FREE! Samplings begin immediately following the performance.

  • Friday, April 18, 2014

Teen Night

Teen Night gives local teens the opportunity to meet for dinner and a behind-the-scenes discussion with a member of the artistic team before attending each subscription-season production at an extremely discounted price.

Past Teen Night guests have included: Tony Taccone, Berkeley Rep’s Michael Leibert Artistic Director; Ray Garcia and Salvatore Vassallo, dancers in Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup; and Michael Suenkel, Berkeley Rep’s production stage manager.

Teen Night begins at 6:30pm at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre. Tickets are $10. Learn more. To reserve your space, call Teen Council at 510 647–2973 or email teencouncil@berkeleyrep.org.

  • Friday, April 11, 2014