Paula Cizmar

Associate Professor of Theatre Practice in Dramatic Writing


Paula Cizmar is an associate professor of theatre practice at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. She is an award-winning playwright whose work combines poetry and politics and is concerned with the way stories get told in a culture and with who gets left out of the discussion. Her plays have been produced all over the country, in theatres big and small, including Portland Stage, San Diego Rep, The Women’s Project, (NYC), Cherry Lane (NYC), Jungle Theatre (Minneapolis), Cal Rep, and Playwrights Arena @ LATC. Plays include: Strawberry, Still Life with Parrot & Monkey, January, The Chisera, Candy & Shelley Go to the Desert and Street Stories. She was one of the seven women writers commissioned by Center Theatre Group and Playwrights Arena to write The Hotel Play, a site-specific, immersive theatre piece that marked the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles uprising in 1992; it was produced in guest rooms and on the grounds of the downtown Radisson Hotel in March to April 2017.

Her many honors include two NEA grants; an international residency at the Rockefeller Study Center in Bellagio, Italy; work selected for Sundance, the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and EnVision at Bard; and a TCG/Mellon Foundation On the Road grant. She is one of the writers of the documentary play Seven, which has been translated into 20-plus languages and has been produced in over 30 countries including in Turkey, Lithuania, Argentina, Nigeria and Serbia to generate dialogue about human rights. She has been awarded numerous commissions and has done adaptations — including Antigone X, an update of the Sophocles classic set in a modern-day refugee camp, and Norteño, a darkly comedic riff on a 17th-century Lope de Vega play about a peasant uprising gone wrong, performed at Golden Tongues 2. Her play, The Last Nights of Scheherazade, won the Israel Baran Award.

Also a librettist, she was selected to be part of the Paderewski Cycle. She is writing the book and lyrics for Golden with music by Nathan Wang, and the first performances to be in 2017.

Cizmar founded the Deep Map Theatre Project, which allows her undergraduate playwrights the opportunity to write and perform pop-up plays about current events issues in a street-theatre style. She is a winner of a Mellon Mentoring Award for Mentoring Undergraduates at USC and has produced three events for USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative. For more information, visit

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