Stephen Karam Play Directed by Joe Mantello
On January 15, 2017, The Humans will play the final performance of its premiere run on Broadway. The show began previews on January 24, 2016, and had its official opening night on February 18, 2016. Upon closing, the show will have played 393 performances, including previews. Stephen Karam is a young playwright in his mid-30s, who has already had a whirlwind career in the theatre, and who has many great works ahead of him. Karam first came on the scene with the 2007 production of his play Speech & Debate, which played in the Roundabout Underground series, the Roundabout Theatre Company initiative for new writing. Roundabout has since become a major supporter of Karam’s work. In 2011, his play Sons of the Prophet received great acclaim, and helped boost the career of its lead actor Santino Fontana, in addition to becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Still, it was not until The Humans that Karam’s work saw the lights of Broadway. The show had its world premiere at the American Theatre Company in Chicago, followed by an Off-Broadway run at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre. The Broadway run began at the Helen Hayes Theatre, which is Broadway’s smallest house, but after winning the Tony Award, it transferred to the much bigger Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre from August 9, 2016. The play was directed by Joe Mantello, the prolific theatre artist whose Broadway directing credits include An Act of God, Blackbird, Airline Highway, The Last Ship, Casa Valentina, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers, The Other Place, and the upcoming revival of The Glass Menagerie.
At the 2016 Tony Awards, The Humans took home four awards: those for Best Play, Best Featured Actor in a Play for Reed Birney, Best Featured Actress in a Play for Jayne Houdyshell, and Best Scenic Design of a Play for David Zinn, in addition to receiving nominations for Best Direction of a Play for Joe Mantello and Best Lighting Design of a Play for Justin Townsend. The play was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In addition, the show received great acclaim for the performance of the entire ensemble, which, in addition to Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell, also included Cassie Beck, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, and Sarah Steele. In fact, the Off-Broadway production was honored with a special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble, and this ensemble transferred intact to Broadway. Reed Birney had previously been seen on Broadway in Casa Valentina, Picnic, and Gemini. Jayne Houdyshell had previously been nominated for two Tony Awards: in 2006 for Well, and in 2012 for Follies. Therefore, her win for The Humans was a long time coming.
An Ambitious Box Office Strategy
The best box office grosses for The Humans took place in the six weeks after the play took home the Tony Award for Best Play. In the week ending July 24, 2016, the show brought in a weekly gross of $554,398, which represented 95.30% of its gross potential. After a short hiatus, the play then took up performances again at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Starting the week ending August 14, 2016, while the weekly grosses remained generally the same as they had been before, the percentage reached of gross potential steeply dropped. That week, the weekly gross of $603,770 represented just 61.84% of its gross potential, even though that was more money than the show had made in any week at the Helen Hayes. However, with a bigger gross potential comes higher weekly theatre rental and overall running costs. Therefore, the producers were betting big on the Tony Award winning play with an ensemble cast, and generally the box office did not saturate its potential in the larger venue. Over the course of the run, the show brought in an average of 66.69% of its gross potential. Still, the play was a great success, running for almost a year, and will certainly help propel the careers of all the artists involved.