Joe Zarrow headshot
Joe Zarrow is an
Actor and Playwright.

NEXT UP: Catch Joe as Friar Laurence in Midsommer Flight's FREE production of Romeo and Juliet, touring to six different Chicago Parks. Please note Joe's understudy will be going on for him on July 20th.

In Winter 2024, Joe played Piero in [producingbody]'s fabulous production of Big Love by Charles Mee.

Joe's new revengeless revenge tragedy Give Up the Ghost was heard as a part of the Gift Theatre's In The Works reading series.

Joe's short quarantine film Feed, written, shot, and edited in one weekend at his home in Ann Arbor during the initial lockdown, was a finalist in the Without Precedent 48-Hour Film Festival and most recently an official selection in Haven Theater's Festival Au Cinema.

Joe's newest reel includes his recent work on NBC's Chicago Med and AMC's 61st Street.

Rondo à la Bongo", a three-character short comedy Joe wrote for young actors at Piven Theater, has been collected in the YouthPLAYS anthology And Hilarity Ensued (Pursued by a Bear).

Joe's script Hellmouth, a neo-medieval pageant play about the 1980s Satanic Panic, was workshopped at Invulnerable Nothings' Barn Lab.0 in coastal Maine.

Joe won a Wilde Award for Best Lead Actor in a Play for his performance as Watson in Open Book Theater's production of The (curious case of) the Watson Intelligence.

Principal Principle, nominated for the Non-Equity Jeff Award for Best New Work, is now available from Dramatic Publishing. If you are considering producing Principal Principle, please read this note about casting.

Joe Acts

The Totalitarians

by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

directed by Carla Milarch for Theater Nova

"I felt almost guilty for laughing so hard." Kym Reinstadler, Encore Michigan

"Zarrow's all-in performance was, for me, the true standout." Jenn McKee, We Love Ann Arbor

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence

by Madeleine George

directed by Krista Schafer Ewbank for Open Book Theater

Winner, 2020 Wilde Award for Best Actor in a Play

"Mr. Zarrow does an excellent job of changing characters...Zarrow’s humanity in his role as artificial-intelligence guy is slightly eerie." David Kiley, Encore Michigan

Buddy Cop 2

by the Debate Society

directed by Cassy Sanders for Pavement Group

"The three who deserve the most praise are the trio at the center of the story: Cyd Blakewell, Gabriel Franken, and Joe Zarrow, playing three small-minded but well-meaning small-town cops, each of whom wants desperately to turn the story of a young girl dying of a mysterious disease at Christmas into a heartwarming made-for-TV movie." Jack Helbig, Chicago Reader (Recommended)


by Melissa James Gibson

directed by Carl Menninger for Windy City Playhouse

"Zarrow displays a natural comedic timing and ease." Raymond Pierce, Chicago Stage Standard

"It's a testament to Zarrow's standout performance that Alan never feels like a trope, conveying with gentle smiles and a few barbs what a mixed blessing his perfect memory can be." Allison Shoemaker, Time Out Chicago

"The real standouts however, are Amy Rubenstein (Jane) and Joe Zarrow (Alan). Their complexities are so strong and unique, we can't help but latch on." Sean Margaret Wagner, Windy City Times

Stage Credits

Romeo and JulietFriar LaurenceMidsommer Flightdir. Beth Wolf
Big LovePiero[producingbody]dir. Amy Carpenter
Household SpiritsLeoTheater Witdir. Eileen Tull
RemoteJoeBoHo Theaterdir. Ruben Carrazana
The (curious case of the) Watson IntelligenceWatsonOpen Book Theaterdir. Krista Schafer-Ewbank
Comedy of TenorsMaxTipping Point Theaterdir. Angie Kane
The TotalitariansJeffreyTheater Novadir. Carla Milarch
ThisAlanWindy City Playhousedir. Carl Menninger
No WakeTeddy and Roger (u/s)Route 66 Theaterdir. Kimberly Senior
BulrusherSchoolchCongo Squaredir. TaRon Patton
Engines and Instruments of FlightTony KushnerGoodman (workshop)dir. Seth Bockley
Midsummer Night's DreamBottomSankofadir. Edgar Sanchez
ArcadiaChaterNew Leaf Theaterdir. Jess Hutchinson
Buddy Cop 2Officer McMurchiePavement Groupdir. Cassy Sanders
Walk Two MoonsDad/Mister BirkwayAdventure Stagedir. Matthew Reeder
Unwilling and Hostile InstrumentsJoeTheater Seven of Chicagodir. Elly Green
The HijabisEnembleMedina/Broken Nosedir. Reza Mirsajadi
HamletGravedigger/First PlayerAmber Gensterblumdir. Amber Gensterblum
200 Funny ThingsImprov EnsembleCollaboractiondir. Steven Ivcich
Lies and LiarsMarcelTheater Seven of Chicagodir. Margot Bordelon
The SeagullTreplevAnother Theater Companydir. Michael Kier
As You Like ItAdam/CorinGorilla Repdir. Lauren Smith
RaskolDetective PerfidyVintage Theater Companydir. David Amaral
War of the Genies Nigel the Evil GenieAdventure Stage (workshop)dir. Joanie Schultz
Hold Me, Drill Me, Kiss MeOriginal Solo ShowWinnipeg, DC Fringe Festsdir. Alix Sobler
LooptopiaMad ScientistRedmoondir. Seth Bockley

Joe Writes

Full-Length Plays

Principal Principle

5F, 100 minutes, two acts

Read the script at Dramatic Publishing

download press kit (2.7 MB)

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."
- , Chicago Tribune

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

"Former public school teacher Joe Zarrow achieves something 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."

"Engaging, intelligent, and important. Highly recommended."
- , Chicago Theater Review

  • Next Act Theater (Milwaukee, WI) - Streaming Production - 2021
  • Fontbonne University Theater (St Louis, MO) - Production - 2018
  • Wesleyan College (Macon, GA) - Production - 2017
  • Dolphin Theater (Auckland, NZ) - Production - 2016
  • Mirror Stage Seattle - Reading - 2015
  • Stage Left / Theater Seven of Chicago - World Premiere - 2014
    Joseph Jefferson Award-Nominated for Best New Work
  • Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep - Developmental Production - 2012
  • Acadiana Repertory Theater New Works Festival - Reading - 2012
  • Theater Seven of Chicago - Reading - 2012


2F, 3X, 75 minutes, one act

request script

Barker and her ensemble of 'demon' actors are putting on a wild outdoor show called Hellmouth: a neo-medieval pageant retelling of the 1980s Satanic Panic through a wide array of vignettes, ranging from stand-up comedy to medieval pageant to intimate two-person scenes to puppet courtroom drama. Unexpectedly, Barker's born-again Mom shows up and gradually insinuates herself into the show in an attempt to reconnect with her daughter.

  • Residency, Invulnerable Nothings Barn Lab, 2022
  • Workshop, Jackalope Theater, 2021

Give Up the Ghost

2F, 1M, 80 minutes, one act

request script

Princess Priscilla has died by suicide, and the King tearfully delivers her eulogy. After the funeral, Priscilla's ghost appears to the brave and hot-headed Sir Ambrose. Priscilla reveals to Ambrose that the King repeatedly sexully assaulted her through childhood. She wants Ambrose to 'set things right,' but with two requirements: no violence, and no dungeons. Give Up the Ghost is a revenge tragedy without revenge, examining how we can move society towards a more enlightened vision of justice.

  • Reading, The Gift, 2022
  • Workshop, The New Coordinates, 2021

The Retreat, or Whatevs

7F, 6M, 120 minutes, two acts

request script

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.

  • Academic Production, The Theater School at DePaul, 2019


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

3F, 2M, 80 minutes, one act

request script

get this script

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 - Theater Nova, 2017
  • Finalist, Downstage Left Residency - Stage Left, 2016

The Absent Minded

2F, 3M, 85 minutes, one act

request script

get this script

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 Coordinates - Workshop - 2017
  • Shattered Globe Theater - Reading - 2015
  • The Ruckus - Reading - 2014

The Pigeons

3F, 3M, 90 minutes, one act

a gentrification farce

request script

Photo by Stephan Mazurek

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

"Very funny satire."
- Chicago Reader (Recommended)

  • Walkabout Theater Company - World Premiere - 2010
  • Stage Left - Reading - 2009

Short Plays

Love Space

1 actor, 9 minutes

get this script

Captain Talosi attempts one last interstellar love connection as alien troops board the Starship Hieronymus. A monologue written to be performed via Zoom to an audience of one.

  • Open Book Theater - World Premiere - 2021

The Drill

2F, 2M, 12 minutes

get this script

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


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

get this script

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

  • LiveWire - World Premiere - 2013

Rondo à la Bongo

2F, 1M, teen actors, 10 minutes

get this script

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 Theater Scene Study Class.

  • Piven Theater Scene Study Class - World Premiere - 2016

Kodak Shirley

2F, 10 minutes

get this script

Film still by Francesca Pazniokas

"Kodak Shirley" was the colloquial term for the models whose faces were used to calibrate color film printers. This time-hopping exploration of race and photographic technology was commissioned for Broken Nose Theater's Bechdel Fest.

  • The Hive Collaborative - Film Adaptation - 2020
  • Broken Nose Theater - World Premiere - 2015

Overnight Parking Ban, in Effect

1 actor of any gender, 10 minutes

get this script

A Chicagoan confronts the city's parking violation bureaucracy.

  • Collaboraction - World Premiere - 2016


Contact Joe

Places where non-robots can find Joe's contact info:

What I'm into these days:

  • Tabletop Gaming as collective storytelling practice.
  • Not coincidentally: the 1980s Satanic Panic, both its camp and serious consequences.
  • Helping my kindergartener draw comics about Bigfoot.
  • Reading: The Magic Mountain,The Broken Earth Trilogy, The Vanishing Half, medieval plays
  • CSS background gradients