One of Broadway’s Newest Talents Returns to Scranton for the Distinguished Author Award Ceremony

May 6, 2016

 Stephen Karam, a native son of Scranton critically acclaimed in the New York theater world for his dark yet hopeful comedies, will receive the 2016 Royden B. Davis, S.J., Distinguished Author Award from The University of Scranton’s Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library on Oct. 29. The event will begin with a reception at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner and the award presentation in the DeNaples Ballroom.

Two of his works were selected as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama: “Sons of the Prophet” and his first Broadway play, “The Humans,” which has also been nominated for six 2016 Tony Awards, including “Best Play.”

The New York Times called Karam, a mature writer “very much in command of his gifts.” This is notable despite his relative youth – he’s in his mid-30s.

“Mr. Karam specializes in painful comedies that shouldn’t be as funny as they are,” The New York Times has written, noting the contrast in another of his revered works, “Sons of the Prophet,” a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A Lebanese-American family suffers greatly, yet the play is “frequently hilarious,” according to the Times.

Karam’s “The Humans,” which opened Feb. 18, 2016, at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre after its off-Broadway run at the Roundabout Theatre Company, is written in the same vein. Dementia, depression and illness surface frequently at a Thanksgiving dinner table, yet the play is at least partially a comedy.

New York Times critic Charles Isherwood lauded the show as “the finest new play of the Broadway season so far – by a long shot.”

The Associated Press labeled Karam’s trajectory rare. “Up-and-coming writers earning such a Broadway transfer were much more common in decades past,” drama critic Mark Kennedy wrote.

This year also will be notable for Karam because his adaptation of “The Cherry Orchard,” by Anton Chekhov, will start previews in September at the American Airlines Theatre. Karam’s screenplays of “Speech and Debate” and of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” are in the process of becoming films.

A graduate of Brown University, Karam teaches playwriting at The New School and is the recipient of the 2012 Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel and Hull-Warriner Awards for Best Play. He is a MacDowell Colony fellow and the recipient of the inaugural Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Drama Desk Award. 

Karam’s other plays include “columbinus,” co-written with PJ Papparelli, “Speech and Debate” and “Dark Sisters.”

The Distinguished Author Award series began with the Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library’s desire to honor the work of fiction and non-fiction authors. The Friends also saw it as an opportunity for authors to share their literary pursuits and impressions with Northeastern Pennsylvanians. The annual event benefits the Friends of the Library Endowment Fund, which supports special gifts for the Weinberg Library collections and services.

Past recipients have included best-selling author Colum McCann, Jack Palance, Malachy McCourt, Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark, Lisa Scottoline, Linda Fairstein, James Grippando, Phillip Margolin, Mary Gordon, William Bernhardt, Steve Berry, Jay Parini and Susan Campbell Bartoletti. The award, named in honor of the late Rev. Royden B. Davis, S.J., who served in many roles at the University and as rector of the Jesuit Community, was first presented in 1997.

Tickets are $60 per person, $55 for Friends of the Library and Schemel Forum members, $25 for students and $20 for student Friends members.

For more information or to reserve a ticket, contact Kym Fetsko at 570-941-7816 or kym.fetsko@scranton.edu.

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