Our Mission

Cutting Ball Theater is committed to creating productions that give our audiences fresh insights into their shared humanity.  We do this by producing plays that reveal a poetic truth as opposed to a naturalistic one, using experimental techniques that excite our audiences’ imaginations and jump start conversations that transform the way they see the world.

About Us

The Cutting Ball Theater was founded in 1999 by theater artists Rob Melrose and Paige Rogers. Since its first presentation in the San Francisco Fringe Festival, Cutting Ball's output has grown steadily.It now presents a four-play season in residence at EXIT on Taylor conveniently located just two blocks from the Powell Street BART.Cutting Ball was featured in the February 2010 issue of American Theatre Magazine. Click here to read the entire article.

What's a Cutting Ball

There are many levels to the name of our theater. First of all, it’s an oxymoron – a ball that cuts. Cutting Ball’s name reflects the paradoxes and ambiguities that our theater embraces. Secondly, we are a cutting-edge theater that has a sense of humor about itself. We do not find ourselves gliding on the cutting edge, but rather bouncing on the cutting ball.

The Cutting Ball was a real person. He was a cutpurse, or thief, during Elizabethan times, who hung around with Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Greene. He was the most wild and radical of the four and is the perfect mascot for our radical re-visionings of classic works.

The Cutting Ball is also a character in contemporary playwright Kevin Oakes’s play All Spoken by a Shining Creature: a hypertext punk tragedy. Artistic Director Rob Melrose directed the world premiere of this play at Perishable Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island in 1996, and it became a touchstone for the kind of new work he wanted to develop at Cutting Ball in San Francisco.



Full Productions Every season we present three full productions of plays; one re-envisioned classic , one from the modern cannon and a new work that is experimental in theme or form. Often times, the plays we choose have been developed in Risk is This… or taken from our workshops and readings.

Risk is This . . . The Cutting Ball New Play Festival Staged readings of three experimental new plays with a team of designers and actors working to discover production strategies that best realize these innovative pieces.

Avant GardARAMA! An evening of short experimental plays presented together as a full production.

The Hidden Classics Reading Series Readings of rarely-produced classics followed by a discussion

Workshops & Readings A chance to test out a piece before it is chosen for a major production.

Open Process Workshops of productions being developed for a future season.

Risk is What?

Our motto and the name of our new plays festival is Risk is This…The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival. The French baccalauréat, also known as le bac, is graded on a scale from 0 to 20 and that 16 is considered an excellent grade and that students only rarely get an 18 or 19 and never a 20.

After high school, French students can opt to take le bac which requires an entire year of study. This test determines where they pursue their higher education. The most famously difficult test is philosophy, where students are asked to take a theme such as “beauty” or “love” and to go through the history of the concept from the Ancient Greek philosophers to the present. This is meant to take the entire four hours allotted for the test.

One year, so one story goes, the test in philosophy consisted of one question, “What is Risk?” While all the other students across France toiled away tracing the development of the concept of risk through the history of philosophy, one daring student simply wrote, “Risk is this…” and turned in his test. The graders were said to have agonized for days about what grade to give this student, some opting for a zero, others for a twenty. Ultimately, they saw the genius of his answer, that his act was in fact demonstrating the concept, and awarded him an unprecedented 20.

Cutting Ball named our experimental festival Risk is This… in celebration of this risk-taking spirit.