The Subtext - Brian James Polak

The Subtext. Episode 21: Zakiyyah Alexander

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A podcast where playwrights talk to playwrights about the things usually left unsaid. In a conversation that dives into life’s muck, we learn what irks, agitates, motivates, inspires and — ultimately — what makes writers tick. 

In this episode, Zakiyyah Alexander tells Brian the story of writing a play in defiance of grad school professors, growing up with hippie parents, converting to Islam, and the power of names in a highly politicized world.

is a writer and actor, and a native New Yorker raised in Queens and Brooklyn. Her plays include: The musical, GIRL SHAKES LOOSE (Penumbra Theater 2017), SICK? (Summer Play Festival), THE ETYMOLOGY OF BIRD (Central Park Summerstage, Hip Hop Theater Festival, Providence Black Repertory Theatre), BLURRING SHINE (Market Theater, Johannesburg, NY International Fringe Festival), SWEET MALADIES (Brava Arts Center, Rucker Theatre, Bay Area Playwrights Festival), something new (commissioned by Philadelphia Theater Company), and (900).

A former resident of New Dramatists, her work has been developed at: O’Neill Musical Conference, The MacDowell Colony, The Lark, Second Stage, etc. Past commissions: Ensemble Studio Theater, Second Stage, The Philadelphia Theater Company and the Children’s Theater of Minneapolis.

A graduate of the Yale School of Drama (MFA in playwriting), Zakiyyah has taught television writing for Columbia’s MFA program, formerly an associate professor at Bard College. She is a co-founder of, The Kilroys, and her work has been included on the 2015 Kilroys List of most nominated plays by women. Currently, she is a story editor on the upcoming Fox show, 24 Legacy.

Reach The Subtext at, or on Twitter @SubtextPodcast.

Brian James Polak

Brian James Polak

Brian is originally from New Hampshire and he has a tattoo to prove it. Some of his plays have been published in Smith & Kraus anthologies, and his embarrassing childhood poetry has been published in Mortified: Love is a Battlefield. He is a member of The Playwrights Union and received his MFA from the USC School of Dramatic Arts. Go to to learn more about his work. Follow him on Twitter @bejaypea.