“Pictures From Home” will debut on Broadway in 2023, beginning previews on Jan. 10 and opening on Feb. 9. The new play, adapted by Sharr White from the eponymous photo memoir by famed American photographer Larry Sultan, will be directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher. The production will star Tony winner Nathan Lane, Tony winner Danny Burstein and Tony nominee Zoë Wanamaker. “Pictures From Home” will appear at Studio 54 (though it is not a production of Roundabout Theatre Company, which owns the venue).
The play’s producing team is led by Jeffrey Richards, Hunter Arnold, Rebecca Gold, Jayne Baron Sherman, Kayla Greenspan and Jacob Soroken Porter. The rest of the creative team has yet to be announced.
As the title suggests, Sultan’s memoir features images from his childhood home in the San Fernando Valley, featuring his parents Irving and Jean Sultan. But it’s more than a photo album. Sultan combines the photos with interviews of his parents to create a fuller portrait.
White — who is best known for “Annapurna” and Broadway’s “The Other Place” — first came upon this particular work of Sultan’s during a 2015 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That fuller portrait drew him in.
“Many of the major pieces from ‘Pictures From Home’ were featured, but also these quotes on the walls between Larry and his father, Irv, about the nature of these photographs, about image, and who owns the images, and ‘How can they be ironic if Irv, who’s pictured in the photographs, isn’t feeling ironic?,’ ” White explained in an exclusive interview with Broadway News. “It was a profound plunge into this running highbrow/lowbrow argument of art and image and ownership, and I just thought, ‘What is this?!’ ”
The playwright immediately read the full book and could feel it was right for the stage. “There’s so much extraordinary interplay and intimacy between Larry and his mother and father while he photographs them, interviews them, researches them over the course of ten years,” said White, who now captures that dynamic in his play, which chronicles a decade in the lives of the Sultans.
But this isn’t a memory play.
“What I really thought was gonna be important was a) showing the photographs and b) having Larry and Jean and Irv argue about them to the audience in front of each other,” White said. “So they address the audience, they bring the audience over to their side. They’re in conflict with each other over the meaning of the photographs.”
“These people are fighters, they’re scrappers. There’s a mess to them,” White continued. “It’s deeply intimate and really funny. Larry was afraid of Jean and Irv retiring because he thought they would literally kill each other. So there’s a lot of family scrapping that I think is a hoot.”
White has comedic talent in his Jean and Irv — to be played by Wanamaker and Lane, respectively — and finds the “deep, gentle kindness in who Danny is as a person that really reflects Larry.”
As audiences get to know the Sultans onstage, they’ll also see the actual photos from the book. The integration of those photos will be a remarkable challenge for director Sher. “Pictures From Home” will mark Sher and White’s first collaboration, which excites the playwright. “He’s a great thinker and imaginer of space,” says White of his director, known for expansive plays like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Oslo” and musical revivals of “The King and I” and the upcoming “Camelot.”
“What I’m most excited about is his placing this in a space with the photographs. It’s like using them as evidence. What’s really happening in the photograph?” White adds. “I think that’s the way Larry wanted everybody to look at them.”