Word for Word

Word for Word

Word for Word is very excited to bring 36 Stories by Sam Shepard, our next production, to the stage this May. Visit the show's website to get an exclusive peak at how the show's being produced, read "Postcards from the Road" to learn about the cast, characters and stories that make up the show, and learn how you can help make this authentic work of American Theater a reality!

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. Founded in 1993 by Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter, Word for Word believes in the power of the short story to provide solace, compassion, and insight into our daily lives. (Photo left: Word for Word in Xingu, Edith Wharton, 2001, by Jaime Kibben)

"Their brilliant inventiveness in performance, choreography, and staging has created a new art form, and a deeply affecting experience." - Tobias Wolff

36 Stories by Sam Shepard

Arranged for the Stage by Amy Kossow

May 21 - Jun 22

In a year-long celebration of Sam Shepard’s 70th birthday, Magic Theatre is spearheading revivals of his most acclaimed works in theaters all across the Bay Area. As part of this momentous event, Word for Word was invited to construct an original work by adapting his prose for the stage. Word for Word company member Amy Kossow spent a year sifting through five of Mr. Shepard’s collections of short stories, eventually choosing to begin with a single story, set, simply enough, in a roadside diner. The resulting script, 36 Stories by Sam Shepard, weaves together tales of his beloved great American desert highways, the endless lonesome roads along which you may meet any type of fellow wanderer.

Off the Page is the first look at Word for Word's forthcoming productions.  With a public staged reading of a short story under consideration as a future show, we invite audiences to see the very first steps of our process of bringing a work from the page to the stage in the Word for Word style.  After the reading, we engage in a conversation with our audience, which gives us lots to think about as we decide on the next steps in bringing the short story to the stage.

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1 Reading of Xingu by Edith Wharton 2011, left to right: Stephanie Hunt, Amy Kossow, Nancy Shelby, JoAnne Winter, Patricia Silver
2 Reading of Julia, by Lillian Hellman, 2011, left to right: Susan Harloe, Christopher Herold, Stephanie Hunt
3 Reading of The Last Stand by Siobhan Fallon 2011, left to right: Ryan Tasker, Marcus S. Thompson, Nicholas Pelczar, Patrick Alparone
Photos by Ulla Havenga

Co-Artistic Directors Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter 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 featuring John Balma, Susan Harloe, and JoAnne Winter.

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 in Bay Area theaters and 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,” Stori es 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.

The advisory board of Word for Word, the Charter Group, is also the core acting ensemble and directing pool for the company.  Meeting monthly since the company’s founding in 1993, the Charter Group works with the Co-Artistic Directors to shape the company’s vision and select stories for production.  A group of talented theatre professionals as well as fanatical readers, the Charter members feel fortunate to be part of such a unique and dynamic company—“how lucky we are to read aloud, be read to, and then perform short stories on a regular basis!”

  • JoAnne Winter, Artistic Director

  • Susan Harloe, Artistic Director

  • Sheila Balter

  • JeriLynn Cohen

  • Stephanie Hunt

  • Amy Kossow

  • Delia MacDougall

  • Wendy Radford

  • Nancy Shelby

  • Patricia Silver

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

Greg Sarris
Honorary President

Julia Alvarez
T.C. Boyle
Dorothy Bryant
Sandra Cisneros
Paul Fleischman
Richard Ford
Ellen Gilchrist
Joanne Greenberg
Andrew Sean Greer
Daniel Handler
Barbara Kingsolver
Armistead Maupin
Greg Sarris
Octavio Solis
Amy Tan
Tobias Wolff

Description Credits Photos Video Press

In Friendship Aug 2013

Word for Word invites you along to celebrate their 20th anniversary, as the entire Charter Group performs together for the first time ever. Zona... more

This event takes place in our new Z Below venue at 470 Florida. Previews are August 14-16. Opening night is August 17th.

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Word for Word’s 2013 Tour of France Apr 2013

For the 18th year, Word for Word is touring France, bringing great American literature to French audiences. In 2013, we tour stories from You Know... more

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You Know When the Men Are Gone Jan 2013

Word for Word gives their signature theatrical treatment to Siobhan Fallon's gripping portrayal of the home front during the Iraq War, You Know... more

Written by Siobhan Fallon "The Last Stand" Directed by Joel Mullennix "Gold Star" Directed by Amy Kossow

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Sodality: Readings From Zona Gale Nov 2012

so·dal·i·ty [soh-dal-i-tee]: comradeship, society, fellowship; the strength of coming together

Get a glimpse of Word for... more

Written by Zona Gale, directed by Joel Mullennix

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Food Stories Jan 2012

Featuring "SORRY FUGU" by T.C. Boyle and "ENOUGH" by Alice McDermott

The dreaded Willa, critic terrible, is coming to Albert&rsquo... more

Directed by John Fisher

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The Islanders Mar 2011

Word for Word stages this pointed, prickly, and humorous story of the bonds of friendship and love. 


Written by Andrew Sean Greer, directed by Sheila Balter

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Olive Kitteridge Sep 2010

"Tulip" & "River" Prickly Olive Kitteridge, navigating life’s unpredictable turns, lurches through several outrageous encounters, and is surprised by joy.


Written by Elisabeth Strout, directed by Joel Mullennix  

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Two On A Party Mar 2010

The short story “Two on a Party” is a frank, unsentimental portrayal of cruising.


Written by Tennessee Williams, directed by John Fisher

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More Stories by Tobias Wolff Sep 2008

Word for Word presents its 15th anniversary show.


Written by Tobias Wolff, directed by Joel Mullennix.

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Sonny’s Blues Feb 2008

In 1950’s Harlem, a tale unfolds of brotherhood,dreams, and the music of the soul.


Written by James Baldwin, Directed by Margo Hall Music by Marcus Shelby

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