Seattle Rep’s FAMILIAR: Beyond the Theatre

Seattle Repertory Theatre presents FAMILIAR from April 27- May 27, 2018. Librarians at Seattle Public Library created this resource list of books, CDs and DVDs to enhance your experience of the show.

We know that a wedding unites more than two people. The couple are not just traveling the distance to complete their vows, their families are traveling the distance with them.  Even when language, food, culture and customs are shared, couples, still, encounter unknown and unexpected ideas and beliefs.

What happens when the first and second generations of an educated Zimbabwean family try to balance identity, religious beliefs, marriage customs, race and language between their native land and their adopted country? Lots!

Familiar revolves around the weekend gathering of the extended and highly educated Chinyaramwira family as they prepare for the wedding of eldest daughter Tendi to native (and white) Minnesotan Chris. Both are devout Christians, who met and bonded while attending the same church.

Humor pays a major role in offsetting the serious differences between Western values and African customs. Christian and Zimbabwean beliefs, generational conflict, race, natal and foreign languages, assimilation and acculturation.

The play, set in the Chinyaramwira’s living room, reveals the material success and professional accomplishmenst of this immigrant family in integrating itself into American society. Their beautifully decorated home, however, cannot shield its occupants from the unresolved conflicts that have migrated with them.

The main event of the weekend is the rehearsal dinner. Relatives are arriving and introductions are being made. As in any gathering, as each person arrives so arrives the potential for the unexpected comment or unplanned occurrence. Thus, Marvelous is taken aback to learn that Tendi and Chris have invited her sister, Aunt Anne from “Zim” to perform the traditional roora ceremony, a Shona bride price custom as part of the weekend’s festivities.

There may be a Minnesota chill outside the window, but there is much heat beneath the roof of the Chinyaramwira home. Energetic performances fueled with humor and insight bring this tale of a family’s journey to life.

Few Americans are aware that Africans are among the highest educated immigrant groups. Resources that provide context and background information for understanding more about the African migration experience include the video Africans in America and the book Africans in Global Migration.

Tendi and Chris would do well to consult the book Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships for further understanding of the challenges facing interracial and bicultural couples. Parents may be surprised by the impact the marriage of their children will have on the parental relationship, but they can educate themselves with the book, When Your Children Marry: How Marriage Changes Relationships with Sons and Daughters.

The food served during rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception can play a crucial role in uniting the dietary preferences of people of European and African descent. Tendi and Chris’s wedding feast just might have included dishes from The Africa Cookbook and Dishing up Minnesota to get the happy couple, their families and friends off to a satisfying start!

~ posted by Chris

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