In Yale Rep’s world-premiere 'Familiar,' a family is thrown into flux

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“Familiar,” a new play about the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, sisters, wives, and husbands — as well as the customs they keep and the secrets they keep buried — will have its world premiere at the Yale Repertory Theatre Jan. 30-Feb. 21.

Commissioned by the Yale Rep, “Familiar” was written by Danai Gurira, an American-born playwright who was raised in Zimbabwe. The play is set in a snowy mid-western suburb, where Marvelous and Donald are preparing for the marriage of their eldest daughter. Clashes erupt within the family when the first-generation American bride-to-be insists on observing a traditional Zimbabwean wedding ritual.

 Gurira is also the author of the critically acclaimed play “Eclipsed,” which was performed at the Yale Rep in 2009; the Pulitzer Prize finalist “In the Continuum,” co-written with Nikkole Slater and performed at the Yale Rep in 2007; and “The Convert.” All of her works — which have won numerous awards — explore the subjective African voice. Also an actress, she currently plays Michonne on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and has appeared in the films “The Visitor,” “Mother of George,” “Three Backyards,” and on the television show “Treme,” among others. She is the co-founder of Almasi Collaborative Arts, which works to give access and opportunity to the African Dramatic Artist.

Danai Gurira, author of “Familiar.”(Photo courtesy of Fox International Channels)

“We often don’t see stories of current first-generation Americans — children whose parents speak differently, perhaps completely different languages, whose identity is complex and multinational,” Gurira has said. “I believe that cultural specificity in storytelling can reveal to us how universally familiar we all are.”

“Familiar” is directed by Rebecca Taichman DRA ’00, whose previous Yale Rep credits include “Iphigenia at Aulis” and the world premieres of David Adjmi’s “Marie Antoinette” and “The Evildoers.” She describes “Familiar” by noting the play “is about love, marriage, how cultural identity gets passed on or lost through generations, how crazy family members can make each other — and just how overflowing the love is even amidst all the madness.”

The cast includes Shyko Amos, Harvy Blanks, Cherise Boothe, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Juanita Jennings, Ross Marquand, Kimberly Scott, and Joe Tippet. “Familiar” features music by the songwriter Somi; scenic design by Matt Saunders; costume design by Toni-Leslie James; lighting design by Joey Moro; and sound design by Brian Hickey. Other members of the technical team include Beth McGuire, dialect and vocal coach; Carrie Hughes, dramaturg; Tara Rubin Casting, casting; and Anita Shastri, stage manager.

Performances at the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel St., are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., with one Monday performance on Feb. 2 at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday, Feb. 7 (followed by a Talk Back with members of the cast and crew), Wednesday, Feb. 11 (preceded by a reception for seniors at 1 p.m.), Saturday, Feb. 14 (an open-captioned performance that will be followed by a Talk Back), and Saturday, Feb. 21 (an audio-described performance). Opening night is Thursday, Feb. 5.

Tickets are $20-$98 and are available online at, by phone at 203-432-1234, and in person at the Yale Rep box office, 1120 Chapel St. Student, senior, and group rates are also available.

Development and production support for “Familiar” are provided by Yale’s Binger Center for New Theatre and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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Steven Padla:, 203-432-1574