Joe Zarrow

Joe Zarrow

Joe writes funny, strange plays about the intersection of the personal, the professional, and the political. He has worked extensively in Chicago, though his work has also been produced across the US and in Canada and New Zealand. He's also an actor, a proud graduate of the School at Steppenwolf. Check out joezarrow.com for more fun facts.

Plays

  • PRINCIPAL PRINCIPLE
    Armed only with her dreams of making the world a better place and six weeks of training, Kay Josephs quits her corporate job to teach English in an urban high school. She wakes up to harsh realities: the copy machine is broken, the system is broken, and the spirits of her fellow teachers are broken. Or are they? A dark comedy of academic intrigue.

    "★★★★ This clear-eyed glimpse into the...
    Armed only with her dreams of making the world a better place and six weeks of training, Kay Josephs quits her corporate job to teach English in an urban high school. She wakes up to harsh realities: the copy machine is broken, the system is broken, and the spirits of her fellow teachers are broken. Or are they? A dark comedy of academic intrigue.

    "★★★★ This clear-eyed glimpse into the teachers' lounge makes hearty laughs part of an all too relevant lesson plan." - Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

    "There are very few excellent plays about public education. This is one." - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

    "Former public school teacher Joe Zarrow achieves something remarkable...an entertaining play about education that re-creates all the quirks and craziness of modern education without lapsing into either cynical hopelessness or Hollywood-style superteacher fantasies. His dialogue feels authentic, and his characters are flawed but likable human beings, not mouthpieces for this or that ideology." - Jack Helbig, Chicago Reader

    "Engaging, intelligent, and important. Highly recommended." - Peter Thomas Ricci, Chicago Theater Review
  • RETCON or Actually it's a Play About Ethics in Superhero Journalism
    RETCON is a universe-hopping comedy about geek culture, race, and keeping your story straight. An unknown African-American actress wins the lead role in the movie debut of Chronometa, a beloved comic book heroine who first appeared in the 1940s. Nerdy traditionalists, led by a mysterious blogger, think their hero must stay absolutely true to the original comics and be played by a white performer. The...
    RETCON is a universe-hopping comedy about geek culture, race, and keeping your story straight. An unknown African-American actress wins the lead role in the movie debut of Chronometa, a beloved comic book heroine who first appeared in the 1940s. Nerdy traditionalists, led by a mysterious blogger, think their hero must stay absolutely true to the original comics and be played by a white performer. The traditionalists pressure the studio to make some unsavory alterations to the screenplay. The actress, unhappy about this compromise, leaks the script to an idealistic young fan who publishes it on the internet. This escalates into a vicious campaign of trolling against the fan and the actress. This main plot is interwoven with the storyline of Chronometa herself, a superhero who grows with the decades. We also see the “origin stories” of the play’s real-life characters: the actress, the trolling blogger, the fan, the director, and the nebbishy continuity supervisor. The play ends on an optimistic note, jumping ten years into the future to see how comic books might continue to evolve.
  • FALSTAFF IN JERUSALEM
    What if King Henry IV had followed his dream to lead a Crusade to the Holy Land? What if Falstaff went along? A companion piece to Shakespeare's HENRY IV PART TWO, FALSTAFF IN JERUSALEM is both a fun cross-continental romp and a sincere exploration of what history - particularly traumatic history like the Crusades - means to us hundreds of years after the fact.
  • THE ABSENT MINDED
    Domestic drone operator Boyd should be doing well: he has a loving wife, a supportive business partner, and a clean bill of health after a bout with cancer. Instead, he's so acutely desperate to escape his body that he turns to a mad scientist for help in this dark comedy about the mind-body problem and the ethics of human relationships.
  • THE RETREAT or Whatevs
    A Chicago nonprofit serving the rural poor is falling apart. The Executive Director disappeared to a retreat in Door County months ago, and in his absence the board has started firing staff in succession. One by one, they run to the woods to find new identities, new purpose, and new love.

    A modern update of Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT and its obsession with boundary-blurring, THE RETREAT...
    A Chicago nonprofit serving the rural poor is falling apart. The Executive Director disappeared to a retreat in Door County months ago, and in his absence the board has started firing staff in succession. One by one, they run to the woods to find new identities, new purpose, and new love.

    A modern update of Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT and its obsession with boundary-blurring, THE RETREAT asks, why do we so often yearn to be something other than what we are? How do our personal desires overlap and conflict with our professional and political selves?
  • THE PIGEONS
    When Martin's girlfriend kicks him out of their apartment for cheating, he has to find new digs quickly in Chicago's diverse, rapidly-gentrifying West Town neighborhood. To get the only existing apartment, he'll have to compete with a rabid overgrown frat boy, a Machiavellian real estate agent, a determined Polish saleslady, an embittered barista, and a flock of very angry pigeons. How far will...
    When Martin's girlfriend kicks him out of their apartment for cheating, he has to find new digs quickly in Chicago's diverse, rapidly-gentrifying West Town neighborhood. To get the only existing apartment, he'll have to compete with a rabid overgrown frat boy, a Machiavellian real estate agent, a determined Polish saleslady, an embittered barista, and a flock of very angry pigeons. How far will Martin be willing to go to stay in the neighborhood he loves so much?

    "Without a doubt, one can arrive unprepared for Joe Zarrow's new play, The Pigeons, produced by Walkabout Theatre, at Swim Cafe's space. It's easily the cleverest, foxiest and physically wildest farce I've seen since, well, forever."
    - Paige Listerud, Chicago Theater Blog

    "Very funny satire."
    - Laura Molzahn, Chicago Reader (Recommended)
  • THE DRILL
    At a small town high school's active shooter drill, the backdrop of blank shots and bullet hole makeup inspires two teens and two adults to explore what is real in their world. Written for The Appetizer Plays speed playwriting festival.
  • RONDO A LA BONGO
    Sibling rivalry, a circle of vengeance-wreaking, and a cat named Bongo with an unfortunate haircut. A ten-minute play for young actors, commissioned for the Piven Theatre Scene Study Class.
  • KODAK SHIRLEY
    "Kodak Shirley" was the colloquial term for the models whose faces were used to calibrate color film printers. This time-hopping exploration of politics and photographic technology was commissioned for Broken Nose Theatre's Bechdel Fest.