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Thursday, April 19, 2018


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The Problematic Play Festival will force us into conversation about the theater industry’s play selection process and the topics that are “off the table” in the American theater. Through an open submission process, we seek playwrights who are willing to discuss, stage, and confront their “problematic” work, providing a space for in-depth, critical, facilitated conversation between artists and audiences.

Throughout the process, we are asking what it means for work to be deemed problematic: Are these scripts “problematic” because they break some kind of universal rule, or have we personally deemed them “problematic” due to our own explicit or implicit biases around certain cultural, social, or political issues? Are there certain lines (of representation, privilege, and identity) that playwrights simply cannot cross? Is there some work that simply should not be done?

The staged reading series will take place in October 2018 at Z Space in San Francisco. Each staged reading will include facilitated discussions before, during, and after the reading; these discussions are the heart and the point of the festival.


Playwrights must be willing to be present (either virtually or in person) to discuss their play with a facilitator and audience.

Any length but longer plays (one-act or full-length) preferred

If you are interested in submitting your play and being part of this conversation, please prepare the following:

Script of your unproduced “problematic” play.

One page explanation of who you are, why you wrote the play, what makes the play “problematic” to you or to others, and what you might want to discuss with an audience.

Optional: up to three documents that show that the play has been rejected by gatekeepers (artistic directors, literary managers, major institutions, foundation officers, etc.).

Please attach all documents as PDFs and email to roser@zspace.org with subject line Problematic Submission by May 1, 2018. Notifications will be sent by July 1, 2018.


If this project intrigues you and you would like to be involved as a reader, facilitator, actor, director, producer, or in any other capacity, please email roser@zspace.org with a bit about yourself and your interests.

This project is supported by a LMDA Bly Creative Capacity Grant.

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