Best Literary Remix: "Word for Word is all about the story".  
-Best of 2017 San Francisco Magazine

Word for Word

WORD FOR WORD Performing Arts Company is an ensemble whose mission is to tell great stories with elegant theatricality, staging performances of classic and contemporary fiction. 

I wish that Word for Word would do all my stories. Their brilliant inventiveness in performance, choreography, and staging has created a new art form, and a deeply affecting experience.”
—Tobias Wolff

Co-Artistic Directors JoAnne Winter and Susan Harloe founded Word for Word Performing Arts Company in 1993 as part of the Artists in Residence program at The Z Space Studio (Z Space's original name).

The very first performance, to a packed audience in a rehearsal space on Howard Street, was Dorothy Parker’s “The Standard of Living.” It was directed by Amy Freed and featured John Balma, Susan Harloe, and JoAnne Winter.

Top Left:  Velina Brown, Edris Cooper, Margo Hall, Khary Moye in  "All Aunt Hagar's Children" | Rosie Hallett, Rudy Guerrero in "Night Vision" by Emma Donoghue | Velina Brown, Jia Taylor in "All Aunt Hagar's Children"

Bottom Left: Stephanie Hunt, Rudy Guerrero in"Silence" by Colm Tóibín | Jeri Lynn Cohen, Howard Swain in "The Office" by Alice Munro | Jackson Davis, Søren Oliver, Rotimi Agbabiaka in "Dancing Dan's Christmas" by Damon Runyon:  Holiday High Jinx

After early performances in public libraries and schools, Word for Word soon began performing short stories on stage, quickly becoming a local theatre favorite. In 1994, Word for Word became a program of Z Space and has maintained popularity ever since. In 1998, they established an arts education program known as YOUTH ARTS employing the Word for Word style of in-depth, literature-from-the-inside-out workshops in Bay Area schools.


In its vibrant history, Word for Word has performed over 70 stories by some of the world’s best writers. Many of these stories have been performed in front of the authors themselves. They perform regularly at Z Space since 1996 have toured annually throughout California and France.

In 1997, Word for Word received a special Bay Area Critics Circle Award for its unique concept and in 1998, 2002, 2003, and 2005, the Bay Area Critics Circle awarded the company numerous honors for productions including “The Halfway Diner,” “Winesburg, Ohio,” Stories by Tobias Wolff,” and “Immortal Heart.” In 2008, Word for Word received the Best Ensemble Award for “Sonny's Blues,” with composer Marcus Shelby receiving the best Original Score for the production.

Charter Group

The advisory board of Word for Word, the Charter Group, is also the core acting ensemble and directing pool for the company.  More information about the Charter Members >

Associate Artists Group

Word for Word's Associate Artists Group is a coterie of talented young theater professionals who are bringing Word for Word to a new generation of audiences.

Annette Koehn
Jill MacLean
Andrew Packard
Ryan Tasker
Becca Wolff

Molly Benson
Amber Bryant
Andrea Day
Rosie Hallett
Gendell Hing-Hernandez
Lisa Hori-Garcia

authors council

The following writers have had their work performed by Word for Word, and lend their names in support the work of our company.


Daniel Handler
Edward P. Jones
Barbara Kingsolver
Armistead Maupin
George Saunders
Octavio Solis
Amy Tan
Tobias Wolff

Greg Sarris | Honorary President

Julia Alvarez
T.C. Boyle
Sandra Cisneros
Siobhan Fallon
Paul Fleischman
Richard Ford
Ellen Gilchrist
Joanne Greenberg
Andrew Sean Greer