Saheem Ali '07 and Marcel Spears '15 Head to Broadway with 'Fat Ham'

Anastasia Ellis
December 16, 2022

Directing alumnus Saheem Ali ’07 will make his Broadway directorial debut in James Ijames’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fat Ham, at American Airlines Theatre this spring. Previews are scheduled to begin on March 21 and the official opening night is April 12, 2023. The production will play for a 14-week limited run, with its closing date set for August 6, 2023. 

Ali directed the New York premiere of Fat Ham earlier this year. The play was produced in co-production with The Public Theater and National Black Theatre and was presented at the Public’s Anspacher Theater. Fat Ham’s transfer to Broadway marks National Black Theatre’s first Broadway production and only the third play in history to be transferred to Broadway from a Black theatre. In the show’s Broadway run, Acting alumnus Marcel Spears ’15 will reprise his role as Juicy, also making his Broadway debut. 

Fat Ham is Ijames’s reinvention of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It follows the story of Juicy, a young Black man struggling with his identity and queerness. The ghost of Juicy’s late father confronts Juicy at a family cookout, demanding vengeance for his death. The confrontation sends Juicy on a journey in search of happiness and liberation.

Saheem Ali is a Kenyan theatre director based in New York City. He is the Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director of the Public Theater. Recent credits include: the new musical Goddess, written by Jocelyn Bio ’08 and Michael Thurber (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Merry Wives, adapted by Bioh (The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park), and Bioh’s Nollywood Dreams (MCC Theater). In the midst of theatre closures during the height of the pandemic, Ali directed several radio plays for The Public Theater: Romeo y Julieta, Shipwreck, and Richard II. He also directed a stage version of Shipwreck at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in early 2020. Ali is the recipient of Stage Directors and Choreographers Workshop Foundation’s (SDCF) Sir John Gielgud Fellowship, New York Theatre Workshop’s Emerging Artist Fellowship, Columbia University’s Shubert Fellowship, and Northeastern University’s Presidential Scholarship in Theatre.

A New Orleans native, Marcel Spears made his television series debut in 2017 with The Mayor, the acclaimed comedy created by Jeremy Bronson and executive produced by Daveed Diggs and Jamie Tarses. Spears has also worked consistently on stage. Theater credits include Rachel Bonds’ At the Old Place (La Jolla Playhouse), Steve Martin’s Picasso (the Lapin), Agile with Donald Faison (Old Globe Theater), Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Two River Theater), the Guthrie Theater’s production of Alice Childress’ play Trouble in Mind, the Classic Stage Company’s productions of Shakespeare’s Othello and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage, and Page 73’s production of Judy by Max Posner under the direction of Ken Rus Schmoll. Spears was awarded the Rosemarie Tichler Fund Grant for his performance in the Young Company’s 2015 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Tyne Rafaeli.