Check out Joe's profile on the New Play Exchange.


Full Length

Principal Principle

5F, 100 minutes, two acts

If you are considering producing Principal Principle, please read this note about casting.

Photo by Emily Schwartz

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.

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

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

"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

Stage Left / Theatre Seven of Chicago - World Premiere - 2014

  • Joseph Jefferson Award-Nominated (Best New Work 2015)
  • Best-selling Theatre Seven show of all time
  • Best-selling Stage Left show in over a decade

Fontbonne University Theatre (St Louis, MO) - Production - 2018

Wesleyan College (Macon, GA) - Production - 2017

Dolphin Theatre (Auckland, NZ) - Production - 2016

Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep - Developmental Production - 2012

Mirror Stage Seattle - Reading - 2015

Acadiana Repertory Theatre New Works Festival - Reading - 2012

Theatre Seven of Chicago - Reading - 2012


The Absent Minded

2F, 3M, 85 minutes, one act

NEW: 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.

The New Colony - Workshop - 2017

Shattered Globe Theatre - Reading - 2015

The Ruckus - Reading - 2014


Retcon, or Actually it's a Play About Ethics in Superhero Journalism

3F, 2M, 80 minutes, one act

NEW: A beloved comic book superheroine is finally getting her own feature film, but some fans are very unhappy with the casting. A universe-hopping play about geek culture, race, and keeping your story straight.

Workshop, Leapfest - Stage Left, 2017

Reading, Michigan Playwrights Fest - Stage Left, 2017

Finalist, Downstage Left Residency - Stage Left, 2016


The Retreat, or Whatevs

7F, 6M, 120 minutes, two acts

NEW: A Chicago-based nonprofit director disappeared to a retreat in rural Wisconsin months ago, and in his absence the board has started firing staff left and right. 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.


The Pigeons

a gentrification farce

3F, 3M, 90 minutes, one act

Photo by Stephan Mazurek

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)

Walkabout Theatre Company - World Premiere - 2010

Stage Left - Reading - 2009


Short

Everythingaoke

3F, 3M, 1 actor of any gender, 10 minutes

A science-fictional exploration of the transformational power of karaoke. Includes robots, pandas, and the Gettysburg Address.

LiveWire - World Premiere - 2013


The Drill

2F, 2M, 12 minutes

Photo by Shane Simmons

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.

The Appetizer Plays - World Premiere - 2015


Kodak Shirley

2F, 10 minutes

"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.

Broken Nose Theatre - World Premiere - 2015


Rondo a la Bongo

2F, 1M, teen actors, 10 minutes

Sibling rivalry, a circle of vengeance-wreaking, and a cat named Bongo with an unfortunate haircut. A fun short play for young actors, commissioned for the Piven Theatre Scene Study Class.

Piven Theatre Scene Study Class - World Premiere - 2016


Roll

2F, 10 minutes

Jade is crushed that her D&D group is breaking up, but she convinces Kristin to hang around for one last very important dungeon crawl. Inspired by Radiohead's "Let Down," and commissioned for Tympanic Theatre's Today We Escape festival.

"A superlative example of character driving storytelling."
- Zach Barr, Chicago Theatre Review

Tympanic Theatre - World Premiere - 2015


Overnight Parking Ban, in Effect

1 actor of any gender, 10 minutes

A Chicagoan confronts the city's parking violation bureaucracy.

Collaboraction - World Premiere - 2016


At the Old Ball Game

2M, 10 minutes

The game has gone into extra innings: dozens of them. Novice sports broadcaster Guy wants to get home to his wife and child, but veteran Buck has different ideas. A metaphysical comedy morsel.

Chicago Dramatists - Reading - 2010