What: SNAP Productions stage drama
Where: SNAP/Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St.
When: Tonight through Dec. 15. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays. Exceptions: No performance Thanksgiving Day; Dec. 15 performance at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 adults, $12 students and senior citizens. Exception: $10 all seats on Thursdays.
Information: 402-341-2757 or snapproductions.com
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British playwright Nina Raine got the idea to write “Tribes” while watching a documentary about a deaf couple expecting a baby. The mom said she hoped her baby would be born deaf.
Parents, Raine said, like to see their own qualities in their children — not just genes but values, beliefs, even a particular language. Families, she said, are a form of tribe. Religions are another. Rituals and hierarchies of a tribe can seem nonsensical to an outsider.
In “Tribes,” which SNAP Productions opens tonight, a middle-class Jewish family in London has three adult children. Christopher, the dad, is an academic. Beth, the mom, is a blocked novelist. Ruth, a wannabe opera singer, settles for pub gigs. Daniel, a grad student writing about language, stutters.
Then there's Billy. Born deaf, he was brought up and schooled with hearing people. He's a superlative lip reader. Billy brings home a girlfriend, Sylvia, who is going deaf. She has taught Billy sign language. For the first time, he feels like he has found his tribe in the deaf community. And he's not happy with his family, his tribe of origin.
The hierarchies of both family and the deaf community are examined in “Tribes,” which won the 2012 Drama Desk Award for best play.
At SNAP, director Michal Simpson said he was immediately drawn to the play. “I was a student of sign language at one time,” he said. SNAP's mission statement of promoting tolerance and understanding seemed to make “Tribes” a good fit, he said.
He said he's lucky to have Noah Diaz cast as Billy. Diaz, who can hear, is a student of sign language and deaf culture at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. When the cast uses sign language, subtitles will be projected for the audience. A preshow will include video of songs that are signed. A talkback after Saturday's show will include members of the Omaha-area deaf community.
Others in the cast of “Tribes”: Brent Spencer, Judy Radcliff, Rick Terkeurst, Kaitlyn McClincy and Regina Palmer.