Rockford native’s play wins at the Tony Awards

By Richard S. Gubbe

Joe Mantello, who has two Tony awards to his credit, was up for a third Sunday night as best director of the play The Humans. Although he did not win, his show was the only Broadway offering that grabbed any headlines from Hamilton.

The Humans, a comedy-drama, received a total of six Tony nominations. While Hamilton stormed though the musical awards, The Humans, by playwright Stephen Karam, won the Tony for best play. Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell won best actor and best actress in a featured role in a play and David Zinn won best scenic design of a play.

Also nominated for Best Play were Eclipsed, The Father, and King Charles III.

Ivo Van Hove won Best Direction of a Play with Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. Also nominated along with Mantello were Rupert Goold for King Charles III, Jonathan Kent for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and Liesl Tommy for Eclipsed.

Producer Scott Rudin announced recently that two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field will join Mantello on Broadway next season in a revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Previews begin February 14, 2017, prior to an official opening March 23 at the John Golden Theatre.

“To say this is a dream come true is an understatement,” Field said in a statement. “Working with the best of the best, from Sam Gold to Joe Mantello to Scott Rudin, on one of the greatest plays ever written is beyond thrilling. Right now I can barely breathe. Hopefully that’ll pass.”

Mantello had retired as an actor but returned to the stage in 2011 in The Normal Heart, citing Ned Weeks as the only role he felt he missed out on playing.

Mantello was born and raised in Rockford, attending Boylan and participating in Rock Valley College productions. He studied at the North Carolina School of the Arts; he started the Edge Theater in New York City with actress Mary-Louise Parker and writer Peter Hedges.

In 2003, Mantello won a Tony for Best Direction of a Play with Take Me Out, and in 2004 he won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical with Assassins. He also has won a 1993 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play with Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, and a 2004 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical with Wicked. He was nominated for a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play in 2011 with the show The Normal Heart as Weeks, an outspoken writer-turned-activist fighting to bring attention to the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York City.

As an actor, Mantello won acclaim as Louis Ironson in the original 1993 Broadway production of Angels in America. Afterward, Mantello switched his focus to directing and helmed hit shows including Wicked and Glengarry Glen Ross. In 2009 he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Musical for 9 to 5.

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