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Tribes, by Nina Raine

82 Rolfe St, Cranston, RI   (view map)

Epic Theatre Company is back in action with Nina Raine’s Tribes. The acclaimed work won the 2012 New York Drama Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and has a compelling backstory. The playwright provided an inside look in a piece titled “Why I Wrote Tribes,” when it premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London: “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 . . . 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.” Epic will present Tribes in conjunction with the Rhode Island School For the Deaf at Theatre 82, 82 Rolfe Sq, Cranston, through January 25 (Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, plus the 15th at 7 pm) | $15, $12 students (previews Jan 10 and 11, $10) |

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