About the Author: Stephen Karam

American playwright and screenwriter Stephen Karam grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in a Lebanese-American family of the Maronite faith. Graduating from Brown University in 2002, he went on to apprentice at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Karam teaches graduate playwriting at The New School in New York City.

He is the Tony Award-winning author of The HumansSons of the Prophet, and Speech & Debate. For his work he’s received two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an OBIE Award and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. Karam was a three-time winner in The Blank Theatre’s Nationwide Young Playwrights Festival in 1997, 1998 and 1999. His plays have appeared both off Broadway and on Broadway. Sons of the Prophet, a comedy-drama about a Lebanese-American family, and The Humans were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012 and 2016, respectively. The Humans won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play. His musical Emma won the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF) Musical Theatre Award in 2001.

After a workshop at Brown/Trinity Playwrights Repertory Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island in 2006, the Roundabout Theatre Company produced Speech & Debate in October 2007 at The Black Box. This play was the first at Roundabout Underground, their “initiative to introduce and cultivate artists.” Speech & Debate tells the story of three teenagers in Salem, Oregon. When one of them discovers the truth about a sex scandal in their town…secrets become currency, blogs are belted, and the trio’s connection grows deeper in this dark comedy with music.

Stephen spoke to Cityzine about the surreal experience of watching this play take on a life of its own. “Speech & Debate has been lauded as a comedy, but the critics seem to be having a hard time summarizing it. Have you found that to be true?”

“Yeah, I have! I kind of like that, though. I would be happy if marketing departments could say enough to give people a hint of maybe what’s to come. But, for people who see the show, I think the funniest part about the blurbs [they’ve seen] is how inaccurate they turn out to be. It’s one of those things that might not make too much sense in two or three sentences. So I give my blessing to the people who do their best and lie a little bit.

“. . .who really wants a plot summary before they see a play? The best part about theatre is that you don’t need Cliff Notes, you just sit down and watch.”

It’s not as if I’m saying “come see Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and people discover it’s a black comedy. In terms of specific plot lines [Speech & Debate] is about the relationship of three characters, how their stories and secrets end up intertwining. Besides, who really wants a plot summary before they see a play? The best part about theatre is that you don’t need Cliff Notes, you just sit down and watch.”

See Speech & Debate December 2-6 at CCBC Essex, Robert & Eleanor Romadka College Center, F. Scott Black Theatre. Seating is limited and arranged to ensure social distancing, masks are required. To learn more about our other precautions and preparations for this live performance, view the full reopening guide here: https://tinyurl.com/safelyreopen.

Performance Dates:   December 2 at 11:10 a.m., December 3, 4 at 7 p.m., December 5 at 2 p.m. (ASL Interpreted), and December 6 at 10 a.m.
General admission $10, Seniors, Students, CCBC Faculty/Staff/Alumni $5, FREE for CCBC Students with current ID
Purchase tickets online at www.ccbctickets or call the Box Office at 443-840-ARTS.

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