The Humans: To Read

Posted on: October 19th, 2015 by Olivia O'Connor

Speech & Debate and Sons of the Prophet
Stephen Karam

Sons of the Prophet

Sons of the Prophet

The Humans is Stephen Karam’s third play at Roundabout. 2008’s Speech & Debate, which launched the Roundabout Underground program, follows three high school misfits as they navigate personal secrets and high school politics. 2011’s Sons of the Prophet introduces us to two brothers in a Pennsylvania family going through a particularly terrible year. Both plays reached well beyond the Roundabout stage; Sons of the Prophet was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2011, and Speech and Debate was recently adapted (by Karam) into a film, which is slated for release in 2016.

9/11 Interactive Timelines
9/11 Memorial Museum

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center is a formative memory in the collective consciousness of the Blake family. Aimee was interviewing at a law firm in one of the Two Towers when the first plane hit, and Erik was waiting for her at a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby. This interactive timeline, provided by the 9/11 Memorial Museum, is a detailed breakdown of the day, including a number of primary source materials (recordings, photos, and documents) and brief but detailed commentary. The site also offers a Ground Zero Recovery Timeline, following both the rescue efforts of first responders and the long-term recovery of the site.

“The Uncanny”
Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Freud’s 1919 essay, one of Stephen Karam’s inspirations for The Humans, is a dense but rewarding read. In exploring definitions and examples of the uncanny (loosely defined as a sense of dread that is sparked from something familiar made strange) in life and in storytelling, the essay touches on many of the themes and motifs of The Humans: dreams, death, haunted houses, and repressed emotions. Freud specifically discusses the uncanny in fiction, noting that the uncanny best emerges in a fictional world that looks and functions exactly like our (real) world and takes our world’s view of the uncanny… within that familiar premise, the uncanny can emerge, and can be pushed by the storyteller (in this case, the playwright) beyond the bounds of real-world experience.

Federico García Lorca

One of the epigraphs that begins the script of The Humans is from Federico García Lorca’s poem “Dance of Death:” “The mask. Look at the mask! Sand, crocodile, and fear above New York.” Lorca wrote the poem during a nine month visit to New York, during which he was supposed to be studying at Columbia but mostly wandered the city, getting to know its neighborhoods and culture. His experience prompted Poet in New York, a book of nearly apocalyptic poems on city life. “Dance of Death,” one of the poems of this volume, was written in December 1929, in the wake of the US Stock Market crash. The crash and its aftereffects color much of the collection, which paints a picture of New York in both flux and decline. Contemporary reviewers have noted that the collection has new significance in the post-9/11 era. Lorca’s insights on the city are an illuminating companion to The Humans, in which both the economic recession and the effects of 9/11 loom.

The Humans is extended to play until January 3 at the Laura Pels Theatre. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, The Humans

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