Karam grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania and graduated in 2002 from Brown University. After graduation, he was an apprentice at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where he met Arian Moayed (who is appearing in The Humans) and P J Paparelli, who collaborated with him on columbinus and directed The Humans in Chicago. Karam teaches at The New School.
The Roundabout Theatre Company produced Speech & Debate in October 2007 at The Black Box, after a workshop at Brown/Trinity Playwrights Repertory Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island in 2006. This play was the first at Roundabout Underground, their "initiative to introduce and cultivate artists."
Sons of the Prophet was produced in 2011 at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theatre. The play was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Play.
Dark Sisters is a chamber opera, with the libretto written by Karam and the music composed by Nico Muhly, commissioned by the Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theatre Group and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. The opera premiered at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in November 2011, directed by Rebecca Taichman and conducted by Neal Goren.
The Humans premiered Off-Broadway in a Roundabout Theatre Company production at the Laura Pels Theatre on October 25, 2015, and is expeceted to close on January 3, 2016. Directed by Joe Mantello, the cast features Cassie Beck, Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, and Sarah Steele.
The Humans was Karam's second commission from the Rondabout; the first was for Sons of the Prophets. The play had its world premiere at the American Theater Company, Chicago, Illinois in November 2014, directed by PJ Paparelli. Chris Jones, in his review for the Chicago Tribune, wrote: "kind, warm, beautifully observed and deeply moving new play, a celebration of working-class familial imperfection and affection and a game-changing work for this gifted young playwright." The play will open on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre, with previews starting on January 23, 2016, officially on February 18. The Off-Broadway cast will move to Broadway.
According to Alexis Soloski (in The New York Times) "Mr. Karam specializes in painful comedies that really shouldn’t be as funny as they are. In 'Speech & Debate,' which centers on three misfit teenagers, at least two characters have undergone traumatic sexual experiences.... In 'The Humans,' an Irish-American family’s Thanksgiving dinner is dotted with chatter of depression, dementia, illness and the specter of Sept. 11. This, too, is a comedy. At least in part. It is also possibly a horror story." He writes about loss "and the messy, haphazard, necessary ways we get on with our lives afterward."
In an article about Karam, Charles Haugland, Artistic Programs & Dramaturgy at Boston's Tony Award-winning Huntington Theatre Company, wrote: "Karam has an uncanny knack for echoing American culture in ways that amuse and compel audiences equally... Karam's humor is notable, and he can be funny in remarkably few words... he is quick to note that he starts his plays with the basics: character and plot."
- The Humans (2014)
- Sons of the Prophet (2011)
- Dark Sisters (2011)
- Speech & Debate (2006)
- columbinus (2005)
- Girl on Girl (2005)
- Emma (2000)
Awards and honors
Karam received the Berwin Lee Playwrights Award in 2015, which includes a $25,000 award as a commission.
He is a MacDowell Colony fellow.
He received the inaugural Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Drama Desk Award for Sons of the Prophet. The play also was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.
- Paparelli died in a car accident in Scotland in May 2015
- Soloski, Alexis. "Stephen Karam’s Plays Treat Anguish as a Laughing Matter" New York Times, September 24, 2015
- "Faculty. Stephen Karam" newschool.edu, accessed October 29, 2015
- "Karam Off-Broadway" lortel.org, accessed October 28, 2015
- Hernandez, Ernio. "Three Teens Team for Speech & Debate at Roundabout's Black Box" Playbill, October 29, 2007
- Hetrick, Adam and Clement, Olivia. "Stephen Karam's Family Drama 'The Humans' Sets Sights on Broadway" Playbill, October 27, 2015
- "'Speech & Debate' Listing, 2006" brown.edu, accessed May 15, 2012
- Isherwood, Charles (23 May 2006). "'columbinus': Exploring the Evil That Roams a High School's Halls". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
- "2012 Pulitzer Prizes for Letters, Drama and Music". The New York Times. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
- Isherwood, Charles (20 October 2011). "Blighted Existences, Eased With Hope and Humor". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
- WEINERT-KENDT, ROB (6 October 2011). "Darkly Comic Voice Adds a Libretto to His Résumé". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
- Hetrick, Adam. "Stephen Karam-Nico Muhly Opera 'Dark Sisters' Begins World-Premiere Run Nov. 9" Playbill, November 9, 2011
- The Humans lortel.org, accessed October 27, 2015
- Jones, Chris. "Chicago review: 'The Humans' at American Theater Company" Chicago Tribune, November 18, 2014
- Clement, Olivia. "'The Humans' Finds Its Broadway Home and Sets Dates" Playbill, November 24, 2015
- Haugland, Charles. "Stephen Karam: A Quick Look At The Playwright" huntingtontheatre.org, accessed October 30, 2015
- Lloyd Webber, Imogen. "Tony Winner Michael Mayer Taps Brian Dennehy, Elisabeth Moss & More Broadway Alums for 'The Seagull' Movie" broadway.com, July 23, 2015
- "Stephen Karam & Zinnie Harris Honored With 2015 Berwin Lee Playwrights Award Tonight" broadwayworld.com, March 19, 2015
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