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Paula Cizmar is a playwright whose work has been produced from Maine to California; her plays combine poetry and politics and are concerned with the way stories get told in a culture—and with who gets left out of the discussion. The Death of a Miner, her first full-length play, explored the life and death of a female coal miner who had been denied equal rights. Produced by the Women’s Project at the American Place Theatre, the play starred Mary McDonnell and earned Cizmar an NEA grant and a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Special Commendation. Theatres producing her work include Portland Stage Company, the Jungle Theatre (Minneapolis), San Diego Rep, Passage Theatre (NJ), Theatre LaBeet (London), The Warehouse (London), Actors Theatre of Louisville (short plays), and Playwrights Arena @ LATC. Among her many plays are Candy & Shelley Go To the Desert, Still Life with Parrot & Monkey, Ghost Dance on Mulholland, Bone Dry, Down 4 the Count, and January. Street Stories, a play described by an admiring reviewer as “a prose poem to urban, multicultural America,” was awarded three Critics Picks for the Playwrights Arena production in Los Angeles. Venus in Orange, a performance piece about gender issues, co-written with Laura Shamas, was produced at the Victory Theatre Center and continues her commitment to using theatre to explore issues relevant to contemporary culture. Venus was selected to be performed at the 2012 Women Playwrights International Conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Paula has received commissions from Salt Lake Acting Company, Echo Theatre, Portland Stage Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the Women’s Theatre Project of Minnesota. Her numerous residencies include Playwright in Residence at Skidmore College, Ohio University, and Portland Stage, and an international residency at the Rockefeller Study Center at Bellagio, Italy. Her work has been selected for both Sundance and the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, as well as Voice and Vision Theatre’s EnVision Retreat at Bard. Among her many awards are two NEA grants. Paula Cizmar’s work strikes many different tones, often using comedy and a break with literal realism to get at the heart of a character and a story. A former journalist who wrote for everything from trade publications to national magazines, she has also worked with true-life stories onstage. Most notably, she is one of the authors of the acclaimed documentary theatre piece, Seven, written in collaboration with Carol K. Mack, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Ruth Margraff, Anna Deavere Smith, and Susan Yankowitz. The play, based on interviews the playwrights conducted with courageous human rights workers, has been performed all over the world. Seven focuses on the struggles of female activists who campaign against violence and corruption, even in the face of threats to their own lives. The play has been translated into 20+ languages so far; it was produced at the 18th Istanbul International Theatre Festival in May 2012, and was performed in Amman, Jordan (in Arabic), in Tokyo, Japan (in Japanese), and Riga, Latvia (in Latvian), among other places. It has toured the Balkans as part of a campaign to end violence toward women and India as part of the See Something?/Say Something! anti-gender-violence campaign. Born and raised in blue-collar Ohio, Paula now makes her home on California’s Central Coast—though she spends part of the week in Los Angeles, teaching playwriting at USC.
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