The Humans / Uncategorized

Food for Thought: A Reading List Inspired by ETC’s The Humans

Set the table and pull up a chair! Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati presents the regional premiere of the 2016 Tony Award Winner for Best Play, The Humans by Pulitzer Prize finalist Stephen Karam. This evocative drama brings a family face to face with their most familiar fears, and provides a poignant reminder of why we gather together. Featuring an all-star cast and an incredible two-story set, The Humans serves up trials, traditions, and turkey.


Can’t get enough of the family-driven drama? The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County put together a list of books and movies to feed your interest before and after the show!



Speech & Debate


In both the film and stage versions of Stephen Karam’s dark comedy Speech & Debate, three misfit teens band together to disclose the truth about a teacher who preys on his male students. Through courage and creativity, the teens revive their school’s long-defunct speech and debate team and concoct a musical version of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, which includes unusual elements such as time travel and the young Abraham Lincoln. Their crazy antics confront the issues of adults at their school.




Littleton, Colorado. 1999. Two teenagers devastate a community and shock the country when they walk into their suburban high school and kill 12 students and one teacher. The United States Theatre Project’s columbinus weaves together interviews with teenagers across the country and community members in Littleton including parents, survivors, and community leaders, as well as police evidence concerning the terrible shooting. This haunting drama brings the dark recesses of American adolescence to light, including never-before-released information on the shooters and their families, and first-hand accounts of both the Columbine and Aurora movie-theatre shootings. The play received five Helen Hayes Award nominations including the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play.



White Teeth


New Year’s morning, 1975. Disheartened by his failed marriage, Archie Jones seals up the windows of his car and attempts suicide by exhaust fumes outside a local butcher shop. His plans are interrupted, though, by the enraged Muslim butcher whose driveway is blocked by Archie’s unholy act. Relieved at his failed suicide attempt, Archie attends a party where he meets Clara Bowden–an unusually tall, gorgeous Jamaican woman who has been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. Soon, Archie marries this much younger beauty, and they have a daughter named Irie, whose name means “no problem” in Jamaican (though Irie proves to be the opposite of her namesake). As time goes on, their lives intertwine with Samad Iqbal, a Bengali immigrant who served with Archie in World War II, and Samad’s family.

Samad, an overeducated waiter in a curry restaurant, laments that his two sons are growing up in a secular culture with no regard for his devout Muslim traditions. Though he himself often gives in to worldly temptation, he decides to send his serious and scholarly son Magid to Bangladesh to be raised by his religious relatives. Samad’s wife, Alsana, was given no say in the matter, and refuses to speak to Samad over the next decade or so. Meanwhile, Samad’s son Millat becomes an irreverent, pot-smoking teenager who eventually joins a militant Muslim movement, moving him in the opposite direction of his brother, Magid, who is deeply involved with a widely publicized experiment in genetic engineering.

Zadie Smith’s White Teeth brings together the lives of these families in a dazzling comedy of assimilation and its discontents.


The Corrections


Fun-loving Enid Lambert has become terribly, terribly anxious. Although she would never admit it to her neighbors or her three grown children, her husband, Alfred, is losing his grip on reality. Whether it’s his Parkinson’s disease medication or his negative attitude, Alfred’s recent confusion leads to brooding and unspeakable acts in his basement hideaway, leading him further from Enid day by day. Enid’s children are also causing trouble. Her oldest son, Gary, attempts to force his parents out of their old home and into a tiny apartment. Middle-child Chip, has quit his exciting job as a professor and chosen a “transgressive” lifestyle in New York City. Meanwhile, the baby of the family, Denise, has escaped her disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain in a mysterious affair. Enid still looks forward to Christmas with the family and a ten-day Nordic Pleasurelines Luxury Fall Color Cruise with Alfred, but these few remaining joys are threatened by Alfred’s continued confusion. As Alfred enters his final decline in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, the Lamberts must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them if they are to make desperately needed corrections.


Here I Am


A divorce, a suicide, a bar mitzvah, an earthquake, an exhausting war in the Middle East, the putting to sleep a family dog, and that disturbing passage of the Bible’s Book of Genesis in which God and Abraham and Isaac all reply “Here I am.” This collage of seemingly separate events is brought together by the story of one Jewish family living in Washington, D.C., facing the challenges of modern life in a fragmented world. Jonathan Safron Foer’s Here I Am, a work of extraordinary scope and heartbreaking intimacy, asks some of the toughest questions of our time: How do we fulfill our conflicting duties as father, husband, and son; wife and mother; child and adult? How can we claim our own identities when our lives are linked so closely to others?




In Commonwealth, bestselling author and winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize, Ann Patchett tells the enthralling story of how unexpected romance changes the lives of two families forever.

On a Southern California Sunday afternoon, Bert Cousins shows up uninvited to Franny Keating’s christening party. Before evening falls, he kisses Franny’s mother, Beverly, setting in motion the fracturing of the Keating and Cousins families. This chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved: Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond based on disillusionment with their parents. Twenty years later, when Franny has an affair with legendary author Leon Posen, her family story becomes the basis for Posen’s wildly successful book, ultimately forcing the Keating and Cousins families to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.


Little Fires Everywhere


In Shaker Heights, everything is meticulously planned – the layout of roads, the colors of houses, even the successful lives its residents will lead. This placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, is all about playing by the rules, and no one does that better than Elena Richardson. But when Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – and her teenage daughter, Pearl, move to town and rent a house from the Richardson family, Mia’s mysterious past and disregard for the rules threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. A custody battle over an adoption of a Chinese-American baby dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Mrs. Richardson attempts to uncover the secrets of Mia’s past and present motives, but her obsession comes at an unexpected costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng explores the weight of long-held secrets, the ferocious pull of motherhood, and the danger of believing that order can avert disaster.



The Squid and the Whale

In Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, once famous novelist and patriarch of an eccentric Brooklyn family, Bernard Berkman, has been forced out of the spotlight and into the life of a teacher while his wife, Joan, discovers her own literary talent.  Joan’s newfound literary career leads to marital problems that breaks up the Berkman family, leaving the two teenage sons, Walt and Frank, divided between their parents. Joan has an affair with Frank’s tennis teacher, Bernard starts sleeping with Walt’s girlfriend, and the two boys have to sort through the trauma of family failure and separation.


Ordinary People

Suicide-prone teenager Timothy Hutton lives under a cloud of guilt after his brother drowns while trying to rescue him. Despite intensive therapy sessions, Hutton can’t shake the belief that he should have died instead of his brother; nor do his preoccupied parents offer much solace. In this film directed by Robert Redford and directed by Alvin Sargent, Ordinary People reveals the intimacy and difficulty of dealing with grief within a family.



Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Denzel Washington directS and stars in this adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences. African American garbage collector Troy Maxson is bitter that baseball’s color barrier was only broken after his own heyday in the Negro Leagues. Maxson is prone to taking out his frustrations on his loved ones, and though he does what is necessary to provide for his family, his financial and relational decisions threaten to destroy his wife, son, and friends. The Maxon family must find a way to move forward in spite of Troy’s actions and reach a place of forgiveness.

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