You are currently processing an exchange. Remove Code Cancel Order

“Even for the greatest genius in the world, an artistic education is parabolic. You write something good and then something terrible with the faith that something good will come again.” —Noah Haidle

Young theatre artists often envision their careers unfolding in a straightforward, linear way: going to school, then working in small or regional theatres, moving to the big city for work in larger venues, and eventually finding success on Broadway. But for many artists, including playwright Noah Haidle, who is making his Broadway debut with Birthday Candles—a production originally set to open in April 2020 —careers hold unexpected twists and turns. 

Jump to:

New York Debut

After getting his undergraduate degree at Princeton in 2001 and studying playwriting at Juilliard, Haidle had several plays staged at major regional theatres. His play Mr. Marmalade premiered at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, California before a production in Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre, an Off-Broadway house, in 2005. While most playwrights imagine their New York debut as their big break, the critical reception of Mr. Marmalade stalled Haidle’s New York career. Though his work was produced at major regional theatres—including the Goodman in Chicago, Woolly Mammoth in Washington, D.C., and the Huntington Theatre in Boston—he wasn’t produced again in New York until 2008, when his play Saturn Returns opened at Lincoln Center. After that, he didn’t have a new play open in New York until Smokefall at MCC in 2016.

Back to top

Move to Michigan

Perhaps surprising for a young playwright who was making waves in regional houses on both coasts, Haidle moved back to his hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and taught at Aquinas College while continuing to write. In 2012, his screenplay Stand Up Guys, a dark comedy about aging criminals, was made into a feature film starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin. After spending time in Los Angeles, Haidle again returned to the Midwest, settling in Detroit, where Birthday Candles was commissioned and premiered. 

Haidle’s next major play, Smokefall, about a family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, premiered at the Goodman in 2013 and then had its aforementioned Off-Broadway production at MCC in 2016. In addition to writing plays, from 2018 until 2020 Haidle was a staff writer for Kidding, a Showtime series starring Jim Carrey as a Columbus, Ohio-based children’s television star with a difficult personal life.

Back to top

Haidle in German


Mr. Marmalade had a German-language premiere in 2009 at the Staatstheater Karlsruhe. “I went over and saw Mr. Marmalade and it was absolutely nuts,” Haidle said. “Watching your own play is like watching a dream with a bunch of other people, and then when that dream is in German it gets exponentially weirder." While the play was controversial in the United States, it was well-received in Germany, where Haidle is considered to be a major playwright and often mentioned in the same breath as Chekhov and Beckett. In 2018, Haidle was the playwright-in-residence at the Mannheim National Theater. As of February 2022, eight of the 17 plays Haidle has had professionally produced have been produced only in German. The ninth, Kissyface, is planned for fall 2022 at Theater Oberhausen in a production directed by Dr. Kathrin Madler. 

A German-language production of Birthday Candles is also scheduled to open at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin in April 2022. On reflection, Haidle says, “My career in German-speaking theater is one of the most unexpected blessings of my life, and the support I’ve received there is in part why I have continued to write plays.”

Back to top

A Debut Delayed

Birthday Candles was in its second week of rehearsals in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down theatres. Haidle, writing in the Hollywood Reporter, reflected on seeing his play rehearsed on Broadway but not performed: “What’s the point of rehearsing a play that might not ever be seen? My answer is simple: To offer ourselves a rest from an uncertain world and to express in art our inner experience of living, no matter if anybody witnesses it or not.”

Thankfully, audiences will also be able to experience the art that is Birthday Candles when the show finally begins performances on March 18, 2022.

Back to top


Jones, Chris. “'Smokefall' Writer Knows His Surrealism.”, Chicago Tribune, 18 June 2018.

Monaghan, John. “Review: Detroit Public Theatre's 'Birthday Candles' Burns Bright.Detroit Free Press, 17 May 2018.

Serba, John. “Grand Rapids-Born Writer Noah Haidle Discusses His 'Stand Up Guys' Screenplay, Career as a Playwright.” Mlive, 2020 Advance Local Media LLC, 1 Feb. 2013.

Stand Up Guys.” IMDb,, 10 Jan. 2013.

Stewart, Zachary. “Smokefall.” TheaterMania,, Inc, 22 Feb. 2016.

Tran, Diep. “Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money.” American Theatre, 11 Aug. 2015.

Peters, Nina. “Noah Haidle Im Interview Mit Nina Peters.” Suhrkamp Insel, Suhrkamp Verlag AG.