Paula Cizmar


The aftermath of a terrible tragedy. One child shoots another child; the mother of the victim is caught up in a media feeding frenzy while obsessing about the mother of the shooter.


A comedy about consciousness and connection. A romantic but emotionally detached young woman goes off in search of meaning and instead encounters a downtown painter and an offbeat housewife who can’t stop channeling Frida Kahlo.


Police helicopters, lost souls, and escapees from the midwest and war-torn countries find each other one sleepless night on a blue-collar street in Los Angeles.

Paula Cizmar is an award-winning playwright whose work often combines poetry and politics.  Her writing strikes many different tones, often using comedy and a break with literal realism to get at the heart of a character and a story.  Some of her plays include Bone Dry, Ghost Dance on Mulholland, Candy & Shelley Go To the Desert, and Still Life with Parrot & Monkey.  Her play Street Stories, 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 first off-Broadway play, The Death of a Miner, was produced by the Women’s Project at the American Place Theatre and starred Mary McDonnell; it earned Cizmar an NEA grant and a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Special Commendation.  Theatres producing her work include Portland Stage Company, the Jungle Theatre (Minneapolis), San Diego Rep, Passage Theatre (NJ), Theatre LaBeet (London), The Warehouse (London), Actors Theatre of Louisville (short plays), The Colony Theatre, and Playwrights Arena @ LATC.  Paula has received commissions from Salt Lake Acting Company, Echo Theatre, Portland Stage Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the Women’s Theatre Project of Minnesota.  Her numerous residencies include Playwright in Residence at Skidmore College, Ohio University, 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, as well as Voice and Vision Theatre’s EnVision Retreat at Bard.  Among her many honors are two NEA grants and a 2014 TCG/Mellon Foundation On the Road grant to conduct research on human trafficking for a new play called Salvage/Spasiti.

A former magazine writer, she has also worked with true-life stories.  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 is based on extensive interviews the playwrights conducted with seven courageous female human rights workers.  Seven has been translated into 20+ languages so far; it was produced at the 18th Istanbul International Theatre Festival, and was performed in Amman, Jordan (in Arabic), Rabat, Morocco (in French and Arabic), Tokyo, Japan (in Japanese), and Riga, Latvia (in Latvian), among other places. In Fall 2013, it toured the Balkans as part of a campaign to end violence toward women, and in Spring 2014, it was produced in Belfast by Kabosh Theatre; upcoming performances in Ukraine, Bangladesh, and Mexico are scheduled for 2014-2015.

Her most recent work includes Strawberry, a play about a young botanist searching for an endangered—possibly extinct—species as well as clues to her own existence, and  January, a play about the aftermath of a gun tragedy, which was a finalist in the MultiStages New Works competition and was presented as a reading at the MultiStages festival in NYC.  Another new work, The Chisera, interweaves past and present as real-life nature writer Mary Hunter Austin battles to save water of the Eastern Sierra from developers in 1903, and a female geologist deals with loss and an estranged teenaged daughter in the present;  The Chisera was performed at USC’s Visions and Voices Lost Borders event. And Goat Springs Eternal!, her new adaptation of a 17th-century Lope de Vega play from the Spanish Golden Age, was commissioned for Golden Tongues 2, with performances in September 2014.  

Paula was a staff writer for the acclaimed PBS drama, American Family, starring Edward James Olmos, and she has written on assignment for many film and television producers.

Born and raised in blue-collar Ohio, she makes her home on California’s Central Coast—though she spends part of the week in Los Angeles teaching playwriting in the MFA Dramatic Writing program at USC.