Joe Zarrow headshot

Joe Zarrow is an
Actor and Playwright.

Next Act Theater Milwaukee is streaming a digital production of Joe's award-nominated school satire Principal Principle from February 11 to March 5, 2021. The script is available from Dramatic Publishing. If you are considering producing Principal Principle, please read this note about casting.

"Love Space," a romantic sci-fi monologue Joe wrote to be performed via Zoom to a single audience member, will be February's entry in Open Book's One-to-One Virtual Theatre Festival.

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

Joe wrote Maccabees & Menorahs: a Hanukkah MicroRPG for the Advent Project, 24 days of art benefitting the Community Justice Exchange.

Check out Joe's reel. It includes scenes from his Network TV debut on Chicago PD.

Joe's short film Feed, written, shot, and edited in one weekend at his home in Ann Arbor during quarantine, was a finalist in the Without Precedent 48-Hour Film Festival.

Joe was nominated for the Wilde Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Play for his performance as Max in Comedy of Tenors at Tipping Point Theatre.

In February 2019, Sophomore BFA Students produced The Retreat, or Whatevs, Joe's contemporary adaptation of As You Like It at the Theatre School at DePaul University.

Joe Acts

Joe on Actor's Access | Joe's Resumé as PDF

The Totalitarians

by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

directed by Carla Milarch

Theatre 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

Open Book Theatre

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

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

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

John in Walk Two Moons, Adventure Stage

Schoolch in Bulrusher, Congo Square

Joe Writes

Joe's profile on the New Play Exchange.

Full-Length Plays

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."
- , 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

Stage Left / Theatre Seven of Chicago - World Premiere - 2014 -- Joseph Jefferson Award-Nominated for Best New Work

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 Retreat, or Whatevs

7F, 6M, 120 minutes, two acts

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 Theatre School at DePaul, 2019

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

3F, 2M, 80 minutes, one act

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 - Theatre Nova, 2017

Finalist, Downstage Left Residency - Stage Left, 2016

The Absent Minded

2F, 3M, 85 minutes, one act

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

The Pigeons

3F, 3M, 90 minutes, one act

a gentrification farce

Photo by Stephan Mazurek

"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."
- , Chicago Theater Blog

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

Walkabout Theatre Company - World Premiere - 2010

Stage Left - Reading - 2009

Short Plays


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

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

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


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."
- , 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

Contact Joe

Places to find Joe's contact info:

What I'm interested in these days, whether because I'm writing a play about it or because it's fun, and am happy to chat about:

First century C.E. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus

Tabletop Role-Playing Games (D&D being the most famous), which scratch the theatre itch and which can continue relatively unabated during COVID.

Coincidentally: the 1980s Satanic Panic, both its camp and its serious consequences.

Reading: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,The Broken Earth Trilogy, James Baldwin