By Ian August    

Directed by Lyam Bonnie Gabel

Lead Sponsor: Rae and Bill Saltzstein

Friday, October 23, at 7:30 pm PT
Sunday, October 25, at 1:00 pm PT


Deep in the woods of rural Connecticut lies a brick-laden Victorian mansion, the St. Vedastus Academy for Misguided Teens, a refuge for the newly violent, mildly sinister, and willfully corrupt. Nil is at least two of these things, and even in the eyes of more deviant classmates, suffers social death for it. But when schoolmate Harrison discovers a seemingly bottomless pit in the forest floor behind the school, Nil sees an opportunity to claw a way to the top of the heap. And unbeknownst to them, the pit appears to be getting larger and larger and larger.

Zero is a narrated tale of the inexplicable and the unspeakable, a darkly comedic allegory about the relationship between addiction and empathy, the danger of simple solutions, and whether ‘nothing’ actually exists anyway.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: This play includes all the things. This ain’t no Disney Channel sh*t.

Playwright Perspective

I’m wrestling with the darkness.

I think we all are. Tensions in our country are so high that sometimes screaming into the void feels like the only viable release.

Against my better judgment, I often read through the comments section of news articles and Facebook posts and I’m struck by the disregard for the feelings of others. I think much of it stems from a firm belief in a binary moral code—good versus evil, right versus wrong. And that belief is perpetuated across every political aisle, in every children’s book narrative, in every religious doctrine: there is a good, there is an evil; there is a right, there is a wrong.

But of course, there is also everything in between. Zero is a play about exploring that middle ground, of challenging the binary status quo. The characters of Nil, Julia, and Harrison are all struggling with their places in the universe—are they good, are they bad, or are they something unnamable that exists in the middle. It’s a morality play about empathy—disguised as a magic-realistic punk-rock queer teenage addiction tale.

Zero is about finding love and self-worth and the value of others in places that were once too dark to see. But it’s also about accepting the darkness in yourself.


Nil Esco Jouléy*
Julia Emilia Suarez
Harrison Scottie Tsubota
Mr. Gains Rafael Untalan*
Dr. Virginia Woodhouse Terri McMahon*
Nick Galen Molk*
Sergeant Riggs Jennifer Lanier*
Stage directions Hunter Sims-Douglas
Production Stage Manager Emily Robinson
Production Assistant Neil Orton
*Appearing through an Agreement between ANPF and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.


In and around St. Vedastus Academy for Misguided Teens, a New England boarding institution for troubled youth.

Poster art by: Kara Q. Lewis/francescoch

Runtime: 2 hours 15 minutes total (including 10 minute intermission)

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Playwright Image

Ian August is an award-winning, internationally produced playwright. His play The Excavation of Mary Anning was a winner at Ashland New Plays Festival in 2018, and an audio recording of his play Donna Orbits the Moon is available on ANPF’s Play4Keeps Podcast.

His full-length plays include: Brisé (Selection, 2019 Great Plains Theatre Conference, Finalist 2019 Seven Devils Playwright Conference); The Excavation of Mary Anning (Winner, 2018 Ashland New Plays Festival and 2018 DVRF New Playwright Program, Semi-Finalist 2018 O’Neill Conference); Interviewese (Winner Garry Marshall Theatre New Works Fest, Finalist 2018 New Comedy Fest B Street Theatre); Cobbler (Finalist 2019 New Comedy Fest B Street Theatre); The Goldilocks Zone (Passage Theatre Company, Semi-Finalist 2015 O’Neill Conference); Donna Orbits the Moon (NJ Repertory Company, Utah Contemporary Theatre; Barbour Memorial Playwright Award, 2010); Missing Celia Rose (NYC Summer Play Festival; Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s “Playfest 2009,” Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society); Submitted by C. Randall McCloskey (2011 New York International Fringe Festival); The Moor’s Son; Everything you Can Do (to Make the World a Better Place); and Zero.

His YA play, Parker and the City in the Sea, debuted at the 71st Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in the summer of 2018. Other works have been published by Samuel French, Inc., The Pitkin Review, Smith and Kraus Publishing, and the One-Act Play Depot.

He is an alumnus of Goddard College (MFA) and the Philadelphia playwriting workshop The Foundry. He lives in Lawrenceville, NJ, with his husband, set designer and performing arts teacher Matthew R. Campbell, and his two cats, Lentils and Kimchi.

Director Image

Lyam Bonnie Gabel (they, them) is a director, writer, and social practice artist who creates containers for collective remembering and radical celebration. They are a co-creator of Alleged Lesbian Activities, the nationally touring performance about the history of lesbian bars ( Current work includes inside[OUTSIDE], a geo-located soundscape and AR experience exploring trans* euphoria and queer ecology; and the dance floor, the hospital room and the kitchen table, about care during the early years of the AIDS crisis. They have worked with playwrights, ensembles, and solo artists to develop work at Judson Church, Pipeline, Leviathan Lab, The Theater Offensive, and The New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center. Their work is funded by MAP, the Network of Ensemble Theaters, National Performance Network, NEFA National Theater Project, and Alternate Roots.

They are a 2020 MFA candidate in directing at Carnegie Mellon University and were a Drama League Fellow in 2017. Upcoming projects include i hope they haunt you for Spring, 2021 at Carnegie Mellon.

Esco Jouley
Esco Jouléy
Jennifer Lanier
Jennifer Lanier
Terri McMahon
Terri McMahon
Galen Molk
Galen Molk
Hunter Sims Douglas
Hunter Sims-Douglas
Emilia Suarez
Emilia Suarez
Scottie Tsubota
Scottie Tsubota
Rafael Untalan
Rafael Untalan

Click here to view the ANPF 2020 playbill

Listen to Ian and David’s conversation here.

Ranging from hilarious to heart-full, this conversation between playwrights and friends Ian August and David Hilder delivers it all. They discuss their ANPF 2020 winning plays ZERO and THOSE DAYS ARE OVER, respectively, sharing the stories behind the plays. David shocks Ian with how quickly he drafted THOSE DAYS ARE OVER, and Ian shocks David when he learns about Ian’s benchmarks for submitting his work to festivals. They talk about acting as the gateway drug to playwriting and discuss both the personal and the political in their art during the current political and pandemic climate we find ourselves in:

“ZERO is not a political play,” says Ian, “but I do think that it touches on themes – addiction and apathy – that are hugely political, so those are things that I’m thinking about. It’s not surfacing in a way that says this play is about politics. Most of the work that I’m doing right now is trying to sort of tell the story that I want to tell, and as I’m telling it I’m realizing it’s more political than I think I even intended when I started it.”

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