Paula Cizmar

Paula Cizmar

Paula Cizmar is a playwright whose work often combines poetry and politics and is concerned with the way stories get told in a culture—and with who or what gets left out of the discussion. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a TCG/Mellon Foundation On the Road grant.

Theatres producing her work include Portland Stage Company, the Women’s Project, the Jungle Theatre (Minneapolis...
Paula Cizmar is a playwright whose work often combines poetry and politics and is concerned with the way stories get told in a culture—and with who or what gets left out of the discussion. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a TCG/Mellon Foundation On the Road grant.

Theatres producing her work include Portland Stage Company, the Women’s Project, the Jungle Theatre (Minneapolis), San Diego Rep, Passage Theatre (NJ), Theatre LaBeet (London), The Warehouse (London), Actors Theatre of Louisville (short plays), and Playwrights Arena @ LATC. Among her many plays are The Death of a Miner, Candy & Shelley Go To the Desert, Still Life with Parrot & Monkey, Ghost Dance on Mulholland, Bone Dry, and Down 4 the Count. Street Stories, a play described by an admiring reviewer as “a prose poem to urban, multicultural America,” was awarded three Critics Picks for the Playwrights Arena production in Los Angeles. Her adaptation, Goat Springs Eternal, based on a 17th-century Lope de Vega play, transports the action to the U.S.-Mexico border and was part of the Golden Tongues 2 Festival in Los Angeles.

Paula has received commissions from Salt Lake Acting Company, Echo Theatre, Portland Stage Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Women’s Theatre Project of Minnesota, and Playwrights Arena and Center Theatre Group. Her numerous residencies include Playwright in Residence at Skidmore College and Portland Stage, and an international residency at the Rockefeller Study Center at Bellagio, Italy. Her work has been selected for both Sundance and the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, as well as an EnVision Retreat at Bard. Among her many awards are two NEA grants and a Special Commendation from the Susan Blackburn Prize for her play The Death of a Miner.

She is one of the authors of the acclaimed documentary theatre piece, Seven, written in collaboration with Carol K. Mack, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Ruth Margraff, Anna Deavere Smith, and Susan Yankowitz. The play, based on interviews the playwrights conducted with courageous human rights workers, focuses on the struggles of female activists who campaign against violence and corruption, even in the face of threats to their own lives. The play has been translated into 25+ languages and has been produced in 32 countries so far, including Japan, India, Ecuador, Morocco, Argentina, Russia, Latvia, Jordan, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Egypt, Ukraine, France, and England. It was performed at the 18th Istanbul International Theatre Festival and toured the Balkans as part of a campaign to end violence toward women and has inspired a women’s rights/arts movement there. It was performed at NATO headquarters by a group of male generals and has been performed all over the United States. Most recently it was produced by LA Theatre Works, where it was also recorded as an audio play which will air on public radio and be available as a CD.

She was commissioned by Center Theatre Group and Playwrights Arena, along with six other Los Angeles playwrights--Velina Hasu Houston, Nahal Navidar, julie taiwo oni, Janine Salinas, Jennifer Maisel, and Laurie Woolery--to write The Hotel Play, a site specific work commemorating the 25th anniversary of Playwrights Arena, which was formed in a response to the civil uprisings in L.A. following the Rodney King verdicts.

Paula is an associate professor of theatre at the School of Dramatic Arts at the University of Southern California where she has produced numerous events, including Water Rites and Lost Borders for Visions and Voices.

More information: www.paulacizmar.net

Represented by Samara Harris Anderson at The Robert Freedman Agency, NYC.
samara@robertfreedmanagency.com

Plays

  • Antigone X
    Thebes is now a ruin surrounded by refugee camps. Police violence, terrorists, predators, demagogues abound. Who will dare to defy authoritarian rule and follow the higher laws of love and decency? ANTIGONE X is a contemporary meditation on love, power, and war, inspired by the classic play by Sophocles. (Published by NoPassport Press.)
  • The Last Nights of Scheherazade
    A young woman, Cher, retreats into stories to mask the truth about her abusive marriage. A musician researching the sounds of desert cultures befriends her, helping to draw her out and face the truth—but his motives become misunderstood and place her in more jeopardy. Finalist, Henley Rose Playwright Competition. Winner, Israel Baran Award. (Unproduced.)
  • Norteño
    In NORTEÑO, a dark comedy, an American big box chain tries to build another headquarters in a small town in Mexico just on the other side of the U.S. - Mexico border, where justice is for sale and American companies are eager to buy. Ancient ruins? Damaged water supplies? Who cares? But the exec sent to set up the deal is a shade too corrupt and way too handsy--in fact he never met a women he didn't want...
    In NORTEÑO, a dark comedy, an American big box chain tries to build another headquarters in a small town in Mexico just on the other side of the U.S. - Mexico border, where justice is for sale and American companies are eager to buy. Ancient ruins? Damaged water supplies? Who cares? But the exec sent to set up the deal is a shade too corrupt and way too handsy--in fact he never met a women he didn't want to grope or someone else's property he didn't want to steal. Though the promises from the American company are huge and though the temptations of big bucks are hard to resist, the gringo exec takes one step too far. When he assaults the mayor's daughter, the whole town rises up against him. After everything goes to hell, the question becomes: Can an entire town get away with murder? NORTEÑO is loosely, very very loosely, based on Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna (1612 – 1614).
  • Strawberry
    In a parched, wind-beaten burial ground near the growing fields of Central California, a botanist comes to look for the last remnants of an endangered species—and to face down a family myth. In her search, she encounters an undocumented migrant worker desperate for a new way of life and a deputy sheriff who has lost his way.
  • The Chisera
    A play about water, loss, drought. THE CHISERA is set in both 1903 and the present, in and around a small town in the Eastern Sierra. It weaves together the story of Alice, a modern-day geologist who faces loss and upheaval, with the struggles of the real-life early-20th-century nature writer Mary Hunter Austin.

    In the past: Mary Austin wages a campaign to save the water of the Owens Valley...
    A play about water, loss, drought. THE CHISERA is set in both 1903 and the present, in and around a small town in the Eastern Sierra. It weaves together the story of Alice, a modern-day geologist who faces loss and upheaval, with the struggles of the real-life early-20th-century nature writer Mary Hunter Austin.

    In the past: Mary Austin wages a campaign to save the water of the Owens Valley from being stolen by Mulholland and cronies to create the modern City of Angels. In the present: Alice, struggles with the ethics of a crucial assignment from a powerful client for a project that may threaten the already tenuous ecosystem. In the past: Mary battles not only with the business forces against her but also with her mother who is stuck raising Mary’s disabled child. In the present: Alice comes up against her estranged teenaged daughter and the lawyer for the local Paiute/Shoshone tribe, whose land may be endangered by her work. Crucial decisions—and questions of who owns the land, who benefits, and how does one earn respect--put characters to the test.

    The play is written to be performed by 6 actors (4 w; 2 m), although additional ensemble members may be added.

    Reading at Mach 33 Theatre Festival of Science-Driven Plays and Cosumnes River College; second prize Wilshire Ebell Playwriting Award.
  • January
    A child shoots and kills another child and the media erupts in a feeding frenzy. The mother of the victim becomes the darling of the talk shows; the mother of the shooter is vilified for raising a monster. But both women are lost and the only person who can understand the pain the one is enduring is the other. In a state of shock and grief, the mother of the murdered child attempts to end a vicious cycle of...
    A child shoots and kills another child and the media erupts in a feeding frenzy. The mother of the victim becomes the darling of the talk shows; the mother of the shooter is vilified for raising a monster. But both women are lost and the only person who can understand the pain the one is enduring is the other. In a state of shock and grief, the mother of the murdered child attempts to end a vicious cycle of unreason and hate by coming to terms with her “enemy”—and in doing so, she earns a moment of hope and peace.
  • Still Life with Parrot & Monkey
    4 w; 3 m (although could be 5 and 4; genders could be neutral; flexible) STILL LIFE WITH PARROT & MONKEY is a comedy about consciousness and connection in a contemporary world so complex it can barely be recognized anymore.

    Grappling with this is Celia, a romantic who is emotionally detached, a seeker who so far is coming up empty on where her life is supposed to be headed. She lives...
    4 w; 3 m (although could be 5 and 4; genders could be neutral; flexible) STILL LIFE WITH PARROT & MONKEY is a comedy about consciousness and connection in a contemporary world so complex it can barely be recognized anymore.

    Grappling with this is Celia, a romantic who is emotionally detached, a seeker who so far is coming up empty on where her life is supposed to be headed. She lives with her fiancé Len who is doing research on consciousness theory. Len is centered, focused, interested in every facet of life and cosmology—in short, he’s a brilliant thinker with great hopes for his future. Plus, he loves Celia. Celia, however, fears she’s unlovable—especially when she takes stock of herself and her life: She works as a waitress, she feels as if she knows nothing, she fears she feels nothing.

    Thinking she has no purpose she sets off to find answers. Instead, she encounters Vic, a quirky downtown painter, and Gloria, an offbeat housewife who (inconveniently) can’t seem to stop channeling Frida Kahlo. Gloria hangs out with her mother Faith; neither mother nor daughter question the peculiar or worry about such things. They go bowling.

    Frida, for her part, is an otherworldly mastermind of getting people together; she is responsible for Celia and Gloria meeting when they witness an instance of spontaneous combustion; she also orchestrates the hookup between Celia and Vic.

    All the while, Celia hides from Len that anything is wrong. She thinks: How would someone like him understand? For Celia, there is one desperate goal: to do whatever it takes to find inner peace. (Which isn’t easy—especially when the people around her spontaneously combust or seem to visit a dream world known here as the Blue Moon.)

    STILL LIFE is nontraditional and comedic, reflecting the chaos we experience as we maneuver through what is supposed to be normal urban life.