Leah Roth Barsanti

Leah Roth Barsanti

Leah Roth Barsanti is a Chicago-based, playwright, screenwriter, and educator with an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage from Northwestern University. Her work focuses on strong women and girls trying to make space for themselves in a world that doesn't ever make that easy. Her protagonists struggle against all sorts of things, but mostly against expectations: both their own and those of others. While...
Leah Roth Barsanti is a Chicago-based, playwright, screenwriter, and educator with an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage from Northwestern University. Her work focuses on strong women and girls trying to make space for themselves in a world that doesn't ever make that easy. Her protagonists struggle against all sorts of things, but mostly against expectations: both their own and those of others. While the ultimate goal of all of Leah's work and life is to make the patriarchy squirm, her specific areas of interest are mental health, sports, and forgotten moments from history. In her (now 10!) years in "the biz', Leah has worked in South Florida, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. She is currently a teaching artist, an adjunct professor at East/West University in Chicago, and an active roller derby player with the Windy City Rollers.

Plays

  • Birthright
    ***FULL LENGTH*** Birthright features a series of connected vignettes about overshadowed historical women in science, including Ada Lovelace, Lise Meitner, Alice Ball, and Chien-Shiung Wu. Connecting these vignettes are scenes that happen NOW. They are set in a cystic fibrosis research facility where Rachel, Nhung, and Mara work. (Unbeknownst to the others, Rachel is also a cystic fibrosis patient.) Over the...
    ***FULL LENGTH*** Birthright features a series of connected vignettes about overshadowed historical women in science, including Ada Lovelace, Lise Meitner, Alice Ball, and Chien-Shiung Wu. Connecting these vignettes are scenes that happen NOW. They are set in a cystic fibrosis research facility where Rachel, Nhung, and Mara work. (Unbeknownst to the others, Rachel is also a cystic fibrosis patient.) Over the course of the play, the lines between history and the present blur as Rachel and her co-workers draw on the lessons of their historical counterparts to deal with the gravity of their research and their male boss' God complex.
  • Millennial Church OR What You’re REALLY Missing In That Yoga Class That You Signed Up For, Took One Session Of, Felt Really Good About, and Never Went Back To Again
    ***FULL LENGTH*** Trina had an orgasm in spin class, and is too embarrassed to go back, so she decides to give yoga a try. But from the first centering breath she takes at Sun and Moon Yoga studio, she knows something is off. Is this a workout class, or a cult? And when did yoga get so competitive? And why does the water in the water bottles keep turning into sand? This play is a no-holds-barred satire of...
    ***FULL LENGTH*** Trina had an orgasm in spin class, and is too embarrassed to go back, so she decides to give yoga a try. But from the first centering breath she takes at Sun and Moon Yoga studio, she knows something is off. Is this a workout class, or a cult? And when did yoga get so competitive? And why does the water in the water bottles keep turning into sand? This play is a no-holds-barred satire of fitness culture and the Western appropriation of Eastern religious practices in the name of “health.” Here be dragons.

    This play is the third and final installment in the Millennial Trilogy.

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities.
  • Succulents: The Art of Adulting OR Reasons I Am A Terrible Roommate
    ***FULL LENGTH*** Daphne's roommates are probably going to change the world. Ryn's a surgeon: she saves lives. Massie volunteers overseas in global crisis zones: she also saves lives. And Daphne... Daphne tried to bake cookies the other day. It didn't go well. In fact, nothing that Daphne has tried has EVER gone well. That is... until she buys her first succulent and realizes that plants just...
    ***FULL LENGTH*** Daphne's roommates are probably going to change the world. Ryn's a surgeon: she saves lives. Massie volunteers overseas in global crisis zones: she also saves lives. And Daphne... Daphne tried to bake cookies the other day. It didn't go well. In fact, nothing that Daphne has tried has EVER gone well. That is... until she buys her first succulent and realizes that plants just might be "her thing." What starts as a hobby for Daphne soon becomes an obsession, maybe even her small way of doing something positive for the world? This modern myth about eco-warriors and indoor gardening asks whether it's possible to find a passion without letting it consume you.

    This play is the second installment in The Millennial Trilogy.

    This play is in development and open to developmental opportunities.
  • The Almost Emperor of the Unofficial Deestrick of Lake Michigan
    ***FULL LENGTH*** It is the 1920s in Chicago, and The District of Lake Michigan is thriving. Led by Cap and Ma Streeter, the lakefront plot of land that houses the District is occupied by a ragtag group of Chicagoans living outside the law. They have been allowed to live there, pretty much undisturbed, for decades, but now they are in the way of millionaire Potter Palmer's master plan to expand his...
    ***FULL LENGTH*** It is the 1920s in Chicago, and The District of Lake Michigan is thriving. Led by Cap and Ma Streeter, the lakefront plot of land that houses the District is occupied by a ragtag group of Chicagoans living outside the law. They have been allowed to live there, pretty much undisturbed, for decades, but now they are in the way of millionaire Potter Palmer's master plan to expand his holdings onto Lake Shore Drive. Not one to do his own dirty work, Palmer sends his puppets (The Judge, Sargeant O'Malley, and N.A. Warpbank) to remove Streeter and his followers from the land once and for all in this DaDa legend about land ownership, puppets, and guns.

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities
  • Olympic Mentality
    ***FULL LENGTH*** The first Black person from any country to win a medal at the winter Olympics was Debra Janine Thomas... and she did it while she was pre-med at Stanford.

    Now, over thirty years later, Debi looks back at her skating career, her medical career, and her private relationships that were made public because of her celebrity; and she realizes one thing: the media fucked her over....
    ***FULL LENGTH*** The first Black person from any country to win a medal at the winter Olympics was Debra Janine Thomas... and she did it while she was pre-med at Stanford.

    Now, over thirty years later, Debi looks back at her skating career, her medical career, and her private relationships that were made public because of her celebrity; and she realizes one thing: the media fucked her over. Though Debi has lived a very public life, the media has ensured that no one knows who she really is.

    Determined to regain control of the narrative, the Debi in this play forms a relationship with a podcaster who wants to do a segment on her life. This podcaster expects the public narrative of a once great woman fallen on hard times. What she doesn't expect is Debi's insistence that even though she has left the medical profession, she is still changing the world. Caught between a desire for ratings and a commitment to Debi, The Reporter must decide how she wants to tell Debi's story.

    *This play is based on a series of Skype interviews with Debra Janine Thomas.*

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities
  • Elephant
    ***FULL LENGTH*** In 1927, an open air train station, in Spain, Phillip gives Jig a choice: have an abortion and continue to travel the world with him as his wife and muse, or keep the baby at the expense of the relationship.

    This feminist adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," explores the two futures associated with Jig's two options. One leads to a...
    ***FULL LENGTH*** In 1927, an open air train station, in Spain, Phillip gives Jig a choice: have an abortion and continue to travel the world with him as his wife and muse, or keep the baby at the expense of the relationship.

    This feminist adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," explores the two futures associated with Jig's two options. One leads to a future as a wife in America, the other as a mother in Italy. However, both options leave her unfulfilled. Ultimately, this play is about the choices women have, the way we are represented in literature, and our ultimate search for happiness and autonomy.

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities
  • Women Who Hate Their Jobs
    ***FULL LENGTH*** "Women Who Hate Their Jobs" is nine-scene play centering on the idea of modern women hating their jobs. The play's various characters (all portrayed by three actors) explore themes of money, gender, race, parenthood, drug use, and ambition, all as they relate to women in today's American workforce. My ultimate vision for a production of this play is to have the tenth scene...
    ***FULL LENGTH*** "Women Who Hate Their Jobs" is nine-scene play centering on the idea of modern women hating their jobs. The play's various characters (all portrayed by three actors) explore themes of money, gender, race, parenthood, drug use, and ambition, all as they relate to women in today's American workforce. My ultimate vision for a production of this play is to have the tenth scene as an essay from a high-school girl on the theme of "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up." If and when it is produced, I want to award the student that wrote this essay with a scholarship made up of half the proceeds from the show, with the goal of making sure that at least one woman doesn't have to grow up to hate her job.

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities.
  • Anxiety Play OR Everybody Pees
    ***FULL LENGTH*** Abigail is a twenty-something who doesn’t get out much. With a severe anxiety disorder and a job writing erotica, she rarely needs to leave the house for non-essentials, and she prefers the cocoon of her disorder to the uncertainty of treatment. However, when Abigail's wayward little sister, Annie, comes to stay with her in Chicago, she immediately tries to break Abigail out of her well-...
    ***FULL LENGTH*** Abigail is a twenty-something who doesn’t get out much. With a severe anxiety disorder and a job writing erotica, she rarely needs to leave the house for non-essentials, and she prefers the cocoon of her disorder to the uncertainty of treatment. However, when Abigail's wayward little sister, Annie, comes to stay with her in Chicago, she immediately tries to break Abigail out of her well-constructed shell by dragging her to some hipster Halloween party. What starts as a few drinks at a local bar turns into a real life trapped room puzzle that the girls must complete (against their wills) in order for Annie to keep her job and prove to her family (and herself) that she can be a responsible adult. While completing the puzzle, the sisters have to deal with their own anxieties, and each other’s. Caught in the crossfire is Merlin: a gay Black woman from the North side of Chicago with anxieties of her own. Will our heroines solve the puzzle? Or will they let their anxieties get the better of them? Find out in this twisty play about sisterhood, self-sufficiency, and those nagging little voices in our heads that tell us we're not good enough.

    This play is the first installment in The Millennial Trilogy.

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities.
  • "If I Were You" and Other Elvis Presley Songs
    ***FULL LENGTH*** It is the Spring of 1978, and when Sadie’s brother Brett drops out of school and starts to act like a sullen teenager instead of her old childhood playmate, she becomes determined to find the cause of the change in her brother. She follows him to a clandestine clubhouse where she learns the truth: Brett has joined a club of Elvis impersonators, and is becoming more and more like “The King” by...
    ***FULL LENGTH*** It is the Spring of 1978, and when Sadie’s brother Brett drops out of school and starts to act like a sullen teenager instead of her old childhood playmate, she becomes determined to find the cause of the change in her brother. She follows him to a clandestine clubhouse where she learns the truth: Brett has joined a club of Elvis impersonators, and is becoming more and more like “The King” by the minute. With the help of her friends Kristin and Abby, and Brett’s friends John and Andrew, Sadie tries to save Brett before he loses himself to Elvis entirely.
  • Monster
    ***One Act*** When Monster recruits Daisy -- a manic-depressive -- into her "Sisterhood" for girls with mental illnesses, she gives her a place to stay, a pair of new friends (Almond the Anorexic and Cherry, who practices SI), and everything she needs to renounce society and "indulge" in all of her pathologies. But when Daisy learns about the disappearance of a former member of the...
    ***One Act*** When Monster recruits Daisy -- a manic-depressive -- into her "Sisterhood" for girls with mental illnesses, she gives her a place to stay, a pair of new friends (Almond the Anorexic and Cherry, who practices SI), and everything she needs to renounce society and "indulge" in all of her pathologies. But when Daisy learns about the disappearance of a former member of the Sisterhood (Cobra) and starts to question Monster's carefully constructed world, everything begins to unravel. The resulting power struggle between Monster and Daisy leaves Cherry and Almond caught in a tumultuous middle that sends them spiraling downwards, and Daisy is forced to face the possibility that she is becoming the very thing she is fighting against.
  • A Long Way To Tipperary
    ***One Act*** This play explores the (somewhat fraught) legacy of Mary Tyler Moore. Set in current day, the play casts Mary as the lovable (slightly bumbling) guardian angel of Jos, a genderqueer individual who has been cast as the lead in the upcoming sitcom Transatlantic. As the first sitcom on a major network with a non-binary lead, Transatlantic (and Jos) have received a lot of hype, but the day before...
    ***One Act*** This play explores the (somewhat fraught) legacy of Mary Tyler Moore. Set in current day, the play casts Mary as the lovable (slightly bumbling) guardian angel of Jos, a genderqueer individual who has been cast as the lead in the upcoming sitcom Transatlantic. As the first sitcom on a major network with a non-binary lead, Transatlantic (and Jos) have received a lot of hype, but the day before filming, Jos is getting cold feet. Mary's task: to talk Jos off the ledge. And she will do it, as only she can, by drawing on lessons from her own story.
  • Sympathy
    ***20 minutes*** Mommy & Daddy think that The Monster is killing The Girl, so they lock her in a cage. The Girl, on the other hand, thinks The Monster is protecting her from her parents, who LOCKED HER IN A CAGE.

    This short play, inspired by the Swopes child abuse case in Waukegan, Illinois, questions whether or not some of the things that are done in God's name are any better than...
    ***20 minutes*** Mommy & Daddy think that The Monster is killing The Girl, so they lock her in a cage. The Girl, on the other hand, thinks The Monster is protecting her from her parents, who LOCKED HER IN A CAGE.

    This short play, inspired by the Swopes child abuse case in Waukegan, Illinois, questions whether or not some of the things that are done in God's name are any better than some of the things that are done in Satan's name.

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome
    ***10 Minutes*** It's not Marjorie's fault that the media's portrayal of true crime is sort of kind of racist, just like it's not Brandon's fault that white porn stars do better on OnlyFans. They're both perfectly good liberal people... right? Right?
  • For The Birds
    ***10 minutes*** Nana Batty and Sweet Jane are two pigeons living by the train tracks and surviving off the scraps of food that people throw away. One thing keeps them going: the dream of grain, real grain. But when a man shows up to feed the pigeons, Nana and Jane question his motives, and wonder whether or not they should finally realize their dream.

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities.
  • Joint OR MY LOVER IS A DUMMY
    ***10 minutes*** Hannah and Rico share a joint and talk about their relationship while their dummy lovers are asleep in the next room.

    This play is in development and open to development opportunities.
  • Any
    ***10 minutes*** In this feminist adaptation of one of Chekov's short stories, Klochkov, a medical student, has a deal with his poor renter, Anyuta. If she lets him use her body as a prop on which to study human anatomy, he'll let her stay in his apartment, free of charge. It's not an ideal arrangement, but Anyuta's endured worse. However, when Fetisov, an artist who lives across the hall,...
    ***10 minutes*** In this feminist adaptation of one of Chekov's short stories, Klochkov, a medical student, has a deal with his poor renter, Anyuta. If she lets him use her body as a prop on which to study human anatomy, he'll let her stay in his apartment, free of charge. It's not an ideal arrangement, but Anyuta's endured worse. However, when Fetisov, an artist who lives across the hall, "borrows Anyuta" as a model for his painting, she concocts a plan that will please Klochkov and allow her to stay with him, on her own terms this time.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For Part 287: The Return of the Monkey Paw
    ***10 minutes*** Director Jacobs wants to fire Mandy from her job at the Autumn Days Hospice because she cries about death too much, but Mandy has a supernatural secret that might just save her job...
  • “Is Christmas A Commercial Holiday?” An Oral Report By Susi Kirkland
    ***10 minutes*** A middle-school student responds to the prompt "Is Christmas A Commerical Holiday?" with the thesis, "Yes, and it turns all who celebrate it into whores."
  • Polar Bear
    ***One-Minute Monologue*** a polar bear at the zoo pursues her lifelong dream of being hugged by a human child

    BIG THANKS to actor Teresa Elj, who served as the inspiration for this piece <3