History / Mission

Under Artistic Director Lisa Steindler, Z Space empowers artistic risk, collaboration, and camaraderie amongst artists, audience and staff in the service of creating, developing and presenting new work. Operating two venues in San Francisco’s historic Mission District, a mainstage and a black box theater, Z Space hosts new works from a variety of performance disciplines year-round. Keystone initiatives include New Work, a development program that supports artists and ensembles from conception to realization of unique works, Word for Word, a resident theatre company that transforms works of literature verbatim to the stage, and Youth Arts, an arts education program promoting literacy and engaging students’ creativity. San Francisco Magazine recognized Z Space as the “Best Performance Art Space” in its 2015 “Best of SF” issue.

"I am proud to congratulate Z Space on their 20 years of work as a pillar in the vibrant arts community that makes San Francisco such a special place. Z Space's combination of programming and support for artists and youth is a great example of the unique artistic community that puts San Francisco at the forefront of creativity and innovation."
—San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee


In 1993, visionary David Dower founded The Z Space Studio (the name would later shorten to Z Space) to support a large and evolving community of theatre artists working together in the Bay Area. It became one of the nation’s leading laboratories for developing new voices, new works, and new opportunities in American theater. Throughout the 90s and early 00s, Z Space was privileged to work with such luminaries as Josh Kornbluth, Anne Galjour, Randall Wong, and Brian Thorstensen.

Lisa Steindler joined Z Space in 2007 as Executive Artistic Director and has since brought it to exciting new heights. Her vision and efforts are to establish “a hub for artists of all stripes to rehearse, perform, and exhibit their work while engaging our audiences with the best of Bay Area and national artistry. I like to think of these times as raucous and we need to be ferocious in our thinking and execution of new work".

In 2009, Z Space leased a theater space for the first time and moved into the former Theatre Artaud (read more about Project Artaud and the history of our building). Since then Z Space has become a unique hybrid organization that focuses equally on producing, presenting, and developing new work. Eschewing traditional theater models with fixed seasons and subscription packages, Z Space continues its long-standing choice to remain flexible, to focus on artists’s needs and to facilitate the time and resources necessary to develop each project fully.
Z Space has a robust history of recognition from local and national awards. Nationally, Z Space has received the Helen Hayes Award, the Kesselring Prize, and a nomination by the American Theater Critics Association for the annual Steinberg/ATCA Award, which honors new scripts produced outside New York City. Local recognition of Z Space includes a Will Glickman Award for ‘Best New Play’ and over 50 Critics Circle nominations. In seven of the last ten years, the San Francisco Chronicle’s ‘10 Best Theater Events of the Year’ list has included a Z Space production.

In 2012, Z Space was voted as BEST PERFORMANCE SPACE by the San Francisco Bay Area Guardian!