BWW Exclusive: Moving House- How a Tony-Winning Play Switches Theatres
As BroadwayWorld previously reported, on the heels of winning four Tony Awards including Best Play, The Humans will move into Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street) to extend its limited run. The Humans will play its first performance in its new home on Tuesday, August 9. It will play its final performance at the Helen Hayes Theatre today, July 24, and then take a two-week hiatus to allow for the move. As previously announced, the Hayes is set to undergo significant renovations beginning in August.
Broadway shows changing houses is not a totally uncommon thing, though it has happened just a handful of times over the past few years. In 2013, Mamma Mia! packed up at the Winter Garden to continue its run at the Broadhurst Theatre. Rock of Ages moved three blocks from the Brooks Atkinson to the Helen Hayes in 2011. Before that, such shows as The 39 Steps, August: Osage County, The Lion King, and Chicago did the same.
So what exactly goes into moving from Broadway's smallest theatre to a 1093-seat house? (Hint: Despite the show's apartment-style set, it's more than just cardboard boxes and a U-Haul.) Stage Manager Billy Barnes explains:
"The existing set is transferring as-is. The biggest adjustment is to the portal because the proscenium opening is wider at the Schoenfeld. [Scenic designer] David Zinn has designed new portal pieces to fill in on either side of the opening and we'll be adding some masking. The downstairs hallway that Erik exits through at the end of the play will be narrower offstage at the Schoenfeld because the stage isn't as deep as it is at the Hayes."
He continues: "David takes the lead once the site surveys have been made. Aurora Productions, our production managers, create a budget for the move which takes into account any new scenery that needs to be built as well as the labor costs of the load-out from the Hayes and the load-in to Schoenfeld."
How long does it take to move an entire show to the next block? "We expect to be loaded out of the Hayes and into the Schoenfeld in 6-7 days," Barnes explains. "The lights focused and re-cued and sound re-designed in the Schoenfeld in 4-5 days; and re-teched with the cast and the Schoenfeld crew onstage in 1-2 days. 13 work days in all with a performance on the 14th day."
The Humans is the recipient of 4 Tony Awards including Best Play (Author, Stephen Karam), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Jayne Houdyshell),Best Featured Actor in a Play (Reed Birney), and Best Scenic Design of a Play (David Zinn), 4 Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Play, Outstanding Lighting Design of a Play (Justin Townsend), Outstanding Sound Design in a Play (Fitz Patton) and a 2016 Special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble. The Humans has been named the Best Play of the Year by the New York Drama Critics' Circle, theOuter Critics Circle, and the Drama League. The Obie Awards honored Stephen Karam with a 2016 Award for Playwriting and Jayne Houdyshell with a 2016 Award for Performance.
The angst, anguish and amity of the American middle class are first coaxed - then shoved - into the light in this uproarious, hopeful, and heart-breaking play that takes place over the course of a family dinner on Thanksgiving. Breaking with tradition, Erik Blake (Birney) has brought his Pennsylvania family to celebrate and give thanks at his daughter's apartment in lower Manhattan. As darkness falls outside the ramshackle pre-war duplex, and eerie things start to go bump in the night, the Blake clan's deepest fears and greatest follies are laid bare. Our modern age of anxiety is keenly observed, with humor and compassion, in this new American classic
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe